By Jamal Adel and Haji Fornaji.
24 December 2014:
French diplomats have denied reports that a French military detachment crossed the southern border . . .[restrict]from Chad. It was “just rumours” one told the Libya Herald.
The reports surfaced at the beginning of the week, claiming that French troops, accompanied by Chadian forces, were 80 kilometres north of the border, seeking to intercept Islamist militants operating in the south of the country.
Last week, an eye-witness claimed to have seen French forces based at Faya in northern Chad heading towards the Tibisti mountain border with Libya.
The convoy included vehicles carrying tanks and armoured troop carriers, the eye-witness told this newspaper, and were accompanied by Chadian forces.
Since then, another “eye-witness” said that he had seen them inside the country, but it has not been possible to confirm or refute this.
France currently has a 3,000-strong force in Chad as part of the anti-Islamist Operation Barkhane begun four and a half months ago to prevent the spread of Islamist forces in the Sahel region. In addition to France and Chad, the operation also involves Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
French policy in regard to Libya is now primarily focussed on concerns about Islamist forces in the south of the country and their impact on the Sahel region.
Two days ago, Chadian social media reported that, following a request from French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Chadian President Idriss Déby had ordered his forces to make preparations to cross the border into Libya.
A week ago, at the Africa Security Summit in Senegal, he along with other regional leaders called on the West to intervene in Libya and end the current crisis there. [/restrict]