Several Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) of the French Air Force carried out airstrikes on forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) near the Libyan capital of Tripoli in the early hours of April 18, according to the claims of multiple Libyan sources.
The sources reported that the airstrikes targeted gatherings and vehicles of pro-GNA forces near the towns of Wadi al-Rabi’a and Tajoura, south and east of Tripoli.
France is known for operating at least 16 US-made MQ-9 Reaper UCAVs, which were bought in 2013. The French version of the UCAV was not armed. However, earlier this year France signed a contract with General Atomics to arm its Reapers with AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles.
While France indeed owns armed UCAVs, there is no evidence confirming that the recent airstrikes on Wadi al-Rabi’a and Tajoura were carried out by the French Air Force. Observers believe that the UAE might have been behind these strikes.
The UAE is maintaining a large military presence in the al-Khadim airbase south of the district of Marj in western Libya. A report of IHS Jane’s revealed that the UAE has six IOMAX AT-802i BPA light attack and recommission warplanes, two Chinese-made CAIG Wing Loong UCAVs and two Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in al-Khadim airbase.
Despite the lack of any evidence, the GNA slammed France for supporting the Libyan National Army (LNA), that’s advancing towards Tripoli, in an official statement released in the afternoon of April 18. The international-recognized government even suspended security cooperation with France.
The GNA’s reaction may encourage Paris to support the LNA. The army’s Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar is already receiving massive support from the UAE and Egypt. He is also enjoying good relations with Russia.