British forces have based themselves in a French-led multinational military operations centre in Benghazi supporting renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, according to reports in Arabic media and sources within Libya.
The centre, which was set up in December and began operating in February, also houses teams from Italy, Jordan and the UAE, the reports said.
According to reports on the Huffington Post Arabic website, the centre operates a number of drone aircraft to conduct reconnaissance operations in the east of Libya.
Its fleet includes at least one high-altitude HALE surveillance drone, and a number of other smaller unmanned vehicles.
It is protected by remotely controlled heavy machine guns and rocket launchers, according to the reports.
Sources inside Libya confirmed to Middle East Eye that the centre was operational, but declined to give further details.
The Huffington Post report said that France has contributed 40 personnel who operate drones, analyse intelligence and direct Libyan infantry forces. Italy also provides 40 soldiers, who train Libyan forces and aid the French contingent.
Jordan’s 10-soldier contribution runs training for Libyan marines, while four UAE soldiers operate drones and rocket launchers delivered to Haftar’s forces. A team of 15 British soldiers collects data but does not take part in military operations.
A spokesman for Britain’s Ministry of Defence said it had a long-standing policy of not commenting on special forces operations.
Middle East Eye previously revealed that British SAS soldiers supported by Jordanian forces are already operating in Libya against Islamic State (IS) militants.
The British foreign secretary, Phillip Hammond, has said that the UK would not « rule out » sending troops to Libya.
The Huffington Post said US Marines were also present at the base, but had declined to give details regarding their role.
Haftar, who leads the « National Libyan Army, » is opposed to and has fought IS, but refuses to recognise the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli.
His forces launched Operation Dignity in Benghazi against groups he declared extremists, leading to the city’s « liberation » earlier this year.
French special forces were soon after reported to have moved into the area.
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