” Malta is the Casablanca of the 40s. Malta is the backroom base for all Libyan operations. The French, the English, the Italians, the Americans … everybody is there.”
Unnamed expert in Libyan affairs
“The questions about whether France was using Malta as a stepping stone for covert military operations in Libya and whether these missions had UN or EU authorisation remain unanswered.” [Time of Malta]
At about 7.20am local time on Monday (24/10/2016), a twin-prop Fairchild Metroliner crashed just after takeoff , killing all five people on board.
Media reported that the flight was part of a “French customs surveillance operation”.
Reports also suggested that the plane had been chartered by the European Union’s border control agency, Frontex.
‘Série Noire’ pour la DGSE
High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, excluded the plane was involved in any EU operation.
French Customs stated that none of its personnel had been on board.
French Defence Ministry has now confirmed that three of the five men on board were officials from France’s external intelligence agency: the DGSE.
Last July, three members of the DGSE were killed in a helicopter crash in Libya.
French Boots on Libyan Ground
There can be no doubt that French DGSE and Special Forces are operating in Libya.
According to the WSJ:
“The crash casts light on a major surveillance and covert military operation France has been running in the region to counter the threat posed by unrest in Libya, a few hundred miles south of Malta. Islamic State has taken control of territory on Libya’s coast, raising fears in Paris that the group could use these bases to mount an attack in Europe. Meanwhile, migrant smuggling rings are still active throughout the country, despite efforts by European governments to crack down on them.”
Blast from the Past?
The plane was registered in the US and leased to a Luxembourg based company: CAE Aviation. CAE is a private contractor used by various law enforcement agencies to conduct surveillance operations. Both pilots worked for CAE.
The French DGA (Direction générale de l’Armement) had proposed to buy three such planes (Two for the DRM — Direction du renseignement militaire — and one for the DGSE). They are currently renting nine planes, mostly from CAE.
They had three solid arguments. Firstly, it would lower the long-term cost of these missions. Secondly, it would make them more independent.
But early this year, the DGSE suddenly rejected the deal, arguing that they would rather continue their partnership with CAE.
The third argument of the DGA was the security of its personnel. They had argued that the CAE planes were suffering from poor maintenance.
Today, it appears that CAE Aviation is not just renting planes and equipment to the DGSE. They have also hired many former DGSE officers.