French special forces and intelligence commandos are engaged in covert operations allegedly against ISIS militants in Libya in conjunction with the United States and Britain.
According to a report in French newspaper Le Monde on Wdnesday, President Francois Hollande authorised “unofficial military action” in the North African country.
Following the release of the report, French officials said they had launched a probe into a possible leak of classified documents.
“The last thing to do would be to intervene in Libya. We must avoid any overt military engagement, but act discreetly,” a senior military source told Le Monde.
The French secret war in Libya involves occasional targeted strikes against IS leaders preceded by discreet ground operations.
The US and British armed forces are also said to be involved in the secret operation aimed at weakening the jihadist group in war-torn Libya.
The French Defense Ministry refused to comment on the report but a source close to Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Monde he had launched an inquiry of the “breaches of national defense secrecy” to reveal the source of the leak. If the sources are found and tried, they may face up to three years’ imprisonment.
French President Hollande said the country was at war against IS after the jihadist group claimed responsibility for the November terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
Last month Defense Minister Le Drian said that the rise of IS in Libya posed a major risk to Europe.
“Daesh (Arabic acronym for IS) is installing itself,” Le Drian told French TV, the Local reports. “I have been very worried about Libya since September 2014. They are there, nearly 300km from the coast, and they are spreading,” he added.
The French Defense Ministry also confirmed that French air forces conducted reconnaissance flights over Libya and that France had set up a military base in northern Niger, near the border with Libya.