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Libya - France

France confirms arming Libyan rebels

Reuters/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany
2 min

France air-dropped weapons to Libya’s anti-Kadhafi rebels in early June, defence officials confirmed Wednesday after a report in Le Figaro newspaper. They hope that Berber tribes will and other insurgents can get near to Tripoli and spark an uprising in the capital.

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After Le Figaro quoted a secret memo and anonymous officials who said the arms were unloaded above the Djebel Nafusa region where Berber tribes have joined the anti-Kadhafi revolt, general staff spokesperson Colonel Thierry Burkhard confirmed the drops had taken place.

THE BATTLE FOR LIBYA

He told the AFP news agency that they were light arms intended to allow civilians to protect themselves from Kadhafi’s troops.

"We began by dropping humanitarian aid: food, water and medical supplies," he said. "During the operation, the situation for the civilians on the ground worsened. We dropped arms and means of self-defence, mainly ammunition."

Burkhard described the arms as "light infantry weapons of the rifle type" and said the drops were carried out over several days "so that civilians would not be massacred".

The Le Figaro report said that the shipments included assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, as well as European-made Milan anti-tank missiles.

"If the rebels can get to the outskirts of Tripoli, the capital will take the chance to rise against Kadhafi," said an official quoted in the report.

On Tuesday forces loyal to the Transitional National Council seized bunkers in the desert, reporting that they found caches of rockets, machine guns and other munitions.

But rebel-held Misrata came under attack Wednesday, with eight to 10 rockets hitting the city.

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