The death of three DGSE officers in Libya on July 17 sheds light on the French external intelligence service’s activities in the country.
At the forefront of missions in Cyrenaica, the DGSE does not work alone in Libya. It benefits from both British and US support and also works in close coordination with the United Arab Emirates. A number of meetings take place in Abu Dhabi where the Franco-Emirati contact person is the Libyan ambassador to Abu Dhabi, Aref Ali Nayed. While the French intelligence service contributes its technical expertise, the UAE finances the operation and, as Egypt’s principal financial backer, ensures the solid support of Cairo.
In operational terms, Paris has long-established relationships with the Zintan tribe which have been handled for many years by the DGSE. A former Mirage pilot, well-known in Franco-Libyan arms circles, has recently become very active for these operations. (See articles published in Intelligence Online’s sister publication Maghreb Confidential here). In the South, the DGSE has even older relationships. To watch over Fezzan, the service counts on the Saif Al Nasr clan of Ouled Slimane tribe, who has always been on good terms with Paris. When France ruled this region, between 1943 and 1956 the Saif Al Nasr clan was already its strongest ally in Sebha.
The communications operation of the French authorities, including the intelligence service itself, in the wake of the death of the three operatives, has raised a lot of questions. While the DGSE’s Service Action is normally deployed to carry out actions that cannot be officially accredited to the service, unlike those carried out by the French special operations service COS (Commandement des Operations Speciales), it is surprising to see the government admit to those operations just after the crash