The Malta Independent 24 April 2019, Wednesday

‘The French, the British, the Italians and the Americans … they’re all in Malta’

Neil Camilleri Wednesday, 26 October 2016, 14:17 Last update: about 3 years ago

The plane crash which left five Frenchmen dead on Monday showed how Malta is being used as a hub by several western countries to carry out secret intelligence operations in Libya, according to a French newspaper source.

Liberation quoted a Malta-based Libya specialist as saying that the country is being used as the “Casablanca of the 40s.” The Moroccan city was the staging point for allied operations in Europe during World War II.

On the day of the crash the Maltese government said the five victims were members of the French customs agency on a surveillance mission related to human trafficking in Libya. It insisted that the flight would not have landed in Libya. But the French Douane later denied that the victims were its men. The French government later said three of the dead were defence officers while the other two were civilian contractors. The defence officials were later revealed, by the French media, to be members of the DGSE, France’s equivalent of the CIA. Despite these developments, the government insists that its own version is the correct one.

“The presence of the French military in Libya, revealed by Le Monde in February and confirmed by Francois Hollande after the death of three noncommissioned officers "on duty" in a helicopter crash in July, leaves little doubt about their true destination,” says Liberation.

“Malta is the rear base of all Libyan operations, according to a specialist in country (Malta). This is the Casablanca of the 40s. The French, British, Italians, Americans ... everyone is there,” the newspaper source says, also pointing out that in Malta there is the seat of the Libyan Central Bank and the National Oil Company (NOC). “It (Malta) has become the hub of all traffic related to Libya."

Another ‘expert’ who spoke to the French newspaper said a Mediterranean reconnaissance mission was “not inconsistent” with a Libyan intelligence operation. “The plane could remain at a distance from the areas of interest and collect vital information without flying over sovereign territories. This can include image capturing, electronic signals to surveil activities in Libya that could be of interest to the DGSE, such as trafficking, armed terrorist groups and the presence of foreign forces. Malta then serves as a discreet refuelling platform.”

Liberation says that CAE – the company that owned the Metroliner plane – frequently leases out surveillance aircraft to the French spy agency. It says the French government will never publish the names of the DGSE members killed on Monday.

The men, it says, were bound for an operation in Libya. “The West is currently involved on two fronts – the battle of Sirte, in the center of the country, where the brigades of Misrata are close to overthrow the Islamic state with support from US warplanes, and the war in the East by General Haftar, who faces a coalition of Islamist groups and more moderate fighters in Cyrenaica.”

It adds: “The Misrata brigades and troops of Khalifa Haftar are sworn enemies. The three Frenchmen killed in July in the helicopter crash were fighting alongside the forces commanded by Haftar, who still refuses to recognize the government of national unity. The PM of internationally recognized government was furious to learn that France was conducting operations in support of his rival.” 

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