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19th Aug 2018

Nato mulls use of new drones near Libya

  • Parts of Libya are under ISIS control (Photo: Sebastia Giralt)

Nato is procuring powerful new Global Hawk drones and may seek to deploy them near the Libyan coast, Euobserver has learned.

"Perhaps if the EU moves more closely to the Libyan shores, as we see what happens in New York with the new Libyan government, we can perhaps have some kind of division of labour with Nato providing situational awareness," said an official, who asked not to be named, with knowledge of Nato's plans at a security conference in Brussels on Thursday (26 May).

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Nato would still have to seek permission from the Libyan authorities.

He said a team from Nato will be visiting Libya in the next few days to discuss a mandate that includes on-the-ground "capacity defence building".

"These I stress are just ideas, we haven't yet come to any particular agreement," he said.

Nato already has seven ships deployed in the Aegean sea to help contain the influx of migrants from Turkey into Greece. The US, earlier this week, said it wants to add its own ship to the Nato fleet.

The latest plan would signal a greater expansion of Western military assets near the Libyan coast and a larger alliance involvement in cracking down on migrant smugglers and other security risks like the Islamic state, also known as ISIS and as Daesh.

UN experts earlier this year in an annual report said the militant group had expanded its control over parts of Libya. Recent estimates put the number of ISIS fighters in Libya at around 6,000, up from around 3,000 last year.

The G7 group of wealthy nations are worried.

In a joint-declaration released on Thursday, they urged Libyan security forces to set up a unified command to fight the jihadists.

"We remain deeply concerned about the growing terrorist threat, trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants and arms in Libya," they said.

In April, EU foreign ministers announced they would prolong the mandate of its naval military operation Sophia by another year.

Operation Sophia is billed to intercept vessels smuggling migrants but has now been tasked to also help train Libya's coastguard and navy.

The UK, for its part, is sending a second warship to add to the fleet.

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