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With French support, Egypt killed hundreds of civilians in ‘counterterror’ op, leaked documents show

November 22, 2021 at 4:00 pm

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi inspect the honour guard at the Hotel National des Invalides in Paris on 24 October 2017. [PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP via Getty Images]

Disclose TV has obtained hundreds of official documents revealing a secret French-Egyptian military intelligence operation used to target and kill civilians accused of smuggling across the Libyan border.

The joint military operation, codenamed “Sirli”, was conducted from a military base inside the town of Marsa Matruh on Egypt’s northern coast.

Despite ostensibly being set up to identify terrorist threats coming from Libya across the Western desert, a source from inside the military base revealed several hundred classified documents illustrating the abuses which took place under the cover of this intelligence mission.

On one occasion a French surveillance plane transmitted the location of a convoy of pick-up trucks to the Egyptian air force and returned 43 minutes later to see one of the vehicles on fire.

The next day a French military intelligence liaison officer said: “The strike was very probably perpetrated by the Egyptian air force Cessna 208.”

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“The presence of the armed Cessna alone testifies to the will of the Egyptian air force to use the [supplied] information for repressive ends against local traffic.”

The report commented: “By supplying the information about their location, the French state had in effect made itself an accomplice of arbitrary executions.”

Between 2016 and 2018 the French forces may have been involved in at least 19 bombings of civilians, destroying several vehicles, and killing several hundred people.

One year after the operations began, in 2017, France’s military director wrote a classified report to France’s chief of staff of the armed forces noting that most of the pick-up trucks localised in the Egyptian desert were not connected with terrorist groups: “The itineraries of the traffic are principally lined to ‘simple’ Bedouin professional smuggling.”

“They show how this military cooperation exercise, kept secret from the public, was diverted from its original mission, that of reconnaissance of terrorist activity, in favour of a campaign of arbitrary executions,” Disclose TV said in their report.

“It involved state crimes about which the French presidential office was kept constantly informed, but which took no action,” it continued, adding that French military staff regularly told their superiors about the abuse of information, but it was ignored.

The French government did not reply to MEMO’s request for comment.