A major military scandal, which was revealed by the "Disclose" website, which specializes in long press investigations, in its latest investigation, which deals with the participation of French forces in military intelligence operations for the Egyptian army that targeted hundreds of civilians, including smugglers and others, in the border area separating Egypt and Libya.
(1) The investigation also shed light on secret military agreements between the Elysee on the one hand, whether during the era of François Hollande or Emmanuel Macron, and the government in Egypt, which has turned into one of the most important buyers of the French military industry in recent years.
Searly..a secret intelligence operation
On February 13, 2016, the military base in Marsa Matrouh was waiting for an important military group. A truck arrived in the area, about 570 kilometers from the capital, Cairo, carrying 10 French nationals who entered the country on tourist visas. The French team lodged in a primitive building that lacks basic services such as water or air conditioners, a building that will, starting from that moment, be the center of secret French military operations in Egypt, dubbed "Sirli". (2)
The first building blocks of this military operation began on July 25, 2015, when Jean-Yves Le Drian, former French Defense Minister and current French Foreign Minister, visited the Egyptian capital, Cairo, accompanied by General Christophe Gomard, former director of French military intelligence, to meet with Sedky. Sobhi, the Egyptian Minister of Defense at the time. The atmosphere was very positive, and the reason for this was the armament deals that Cairo had previously concluded with Paris, which amounted to 5.6 billion euros for the acquisition of 24 Rafale planes and two warships.
The Egyptian side took advantage of the enthusiasm of the French to consolidate their military relationship with Cairo and obtain more lucrative arms contracts, and requested assistance from Paris in order to secure 1,200 kilometers from the Egyptian-Libyan border. The French immediately agreed and confirmed the start of work on a secret military plan in the framework of the “war on terror.” It is directly supervised by the French military intelligence, and then the two parties signed an agreement to set the general frameworks for this operation, its objectives and limits.
A few months after this agreement, a French team of 4 members of the French army, 6 former soldiers currently working in the "private military sector" after reaching retirement age, arrived in Egypt, along with 2 pilots, and 4 military analysts working for the "CAE Aviation" company. It is a company registered in Luxembourg.
The company was not only involved in the operations through these individuals, but was behind providing France the most important piece in this process, the Merlin 3 light surveillance aircraft, which cost the French about 1.45 million euros, and was used extensively between July and December 2016.
On paper, the objective of the operation was to help Cairo secure its western border with Libya, which at that time suffered intensified civil fighting in which a number of jihadist organizations participated, led by the Islamic State (ISIS). However, shortly after the start of the operations, the Egyptian side showed a greater interest in another target away from the armed organizations, namely the smugglers of civilians.
The Disclose investigation says that only two months after the start of Operation Cirly, the French Military Intelligence Department concluded through a report issued by a French officer on April 20, 2016 that the Egyptian side wanted to carry out direct operations against the smugglers, and that it had no real desire to Exploiting the surveys carried out by the surveillance plane to search for terrorist elements already. The same thing was repeated 4 months after the first report, as a new report was issued stating that the Egyptian regime targeted smugglers, not terrorists, and that it insists on that, and these smugglers are young people between the ages of 18-30 who smuggle drugs and weapons sometimes, and smuggle grains such as wheat, rice and cosmetics Other times, in search of a living.
The French website claims that 50% of the population in Marsa Matrouh lives from the food of "smuggling", as the smuggler on a cigarette smuggling bus, for example, receives about 3,800 euros, while the daily income of workers in olive fields or in harvesting dates does not exceed the equivalent of only 6 euros in currency. local. However, the smuggling process remains very dangerous, as the Egyptian presidency announced in July 2020 the destruction of 10,000 vehicles of smugglers and terrorists over a period of 7 years, which means the killing of thousands of civilians. (3) The French intelligence agents became increasingly upset after they confirmed that their work in Egypt was of little use, as the Egyptian regime refused the approach of the French surveillance plane to the Sinai region or the Libyan interior, where a number of jihadist organizations are active. Rather, it is satisfied with targeting smugglers on the border not But.
On September 21, 2016, the French spy plane monitored the coordinates of cars traveling through the sand dunes, after which the plane communicated with the French operations center on the ground, which on its part transmitted the coordinates to the Egyptian army's operations room.
Within minutes, the surveillance cameras captured an Egyptian army plane targeting these cars, which were carrying a number of smugglers.
This operation was one of 19 operations in which France participated with its intelligence information in targeting a number of civilians, according to what the investigation published. Days later, the Egyptian Ministry of Defense announced in a report that 8 vehicles of potential smugglers had been completely destroyed.
Macron renews the process
After assuming the presidency of France, Macron confirmed in his speech on May 7, 2017, that Europe and the world are waiting for his country to defend the "threatened lights" in a number of places, to defend freedoms and support the oppressed. Three weeks after this speech, Macron made a phone call with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, shortly after the incident of targeting Egyptian Christians by ISIS. (4) The two men did not only address this incident, but also focused on the operations taking place on the border with Libya, where the French President assured his Egyptian counterpart that he had all the information about these operations and their developments.
Within hours of this call, Pierre de Villiers, the French army chief of staff, obtained a letter from General Christophe Gomard, the former director of French military intelligence, confirming that the cars targeted in September were not belonging to any terrorist organization. Adding in the same message: "The war on terrorism is not a top priority for Egyptians, but rather comes in third place." (5)
However, none of these reports affected the conduct of operations. Sylvie Goulard, the former French Defense Minister, visited Egypt on June 6, 2017, to meet with the Egyptian President, and assured him Macron's readiness to raise the rate of operations, especially as it helps to reach To the results described by the French president as excellent and exceptional. After this visit, it was the turn of Jean-Yves Le Drian, the former French Minister of Defense who had just been appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs. The man came to meet Sidqi Sobhi. During their meeting, the two parties discussed the secret part of the military operation “Sirly”, after which the Egyptian army planes continued to fly. Targeting cars that moved in the area, and among the victims this time was an Egyptian engineer named "Ahmed El-Feki" and two of his colleagues who were working on paving a road near Bahriya Oasis, when an Egyptian plane hit their pickup trucks, killing all three of them.
The desire of Paris and Cairo to continue military movements in the region did not change, and prior to the French President’s visit to Cairo in early 2019 accompanied by his new Defense Minister, “Florence Parly,” Macron obtained a report from the authority responsible for African affairs at the Elysee recommending that he sign a legal agreement protecting French intervention, but the Elysee resident He did not pay any attention to these recommendations. Rather, Sisi awarded the Legion of Honor, the highest French honor, on December 5, 2020, after the two sides signed an armament deal 4 months ago worth 3.6 million euros for 30 Rafale planes.
French media coldness and the opening of investigations
France Proud has invited Jean-Yves Le Drian, Emmanuel Macron and François Hollande to appear before Parliament in order to provide more clarifications on the Cirly operation.
The French media dealt with this investigation coldly, and with the exception of limited media outlets, the news of the "Sirli" operation did not arouse the appetite of the French editorial boards on websites, newspapers and television channels.
Despite this, Defense Minister Florence Parley confirmed that an internal investigation had been opened with the aim of examining the validity of "the Egyptians' use of intelligence information" to target civilians instead of jihadists, as stipulated in the 2016 secret agreement.
In the same context, the French minister indicated that Egypt is a partner in exchanging intelligence information with the aim of combating terrorism in order to protect the region and protect the French.
Barley refused to give more details about this military cooperation on the grounds that it is highly confidential, but stressed that her ministry would take seriously the information published about this operation in the media.
On the political front, the far-left "France Proud" party called for an investigation into the French parliament, calling on Jean-Yves Le Drian, Emmanuel Macron, François Hollande and other defense ministers to appear before Parliament in order to provide more explanations about the "Sirly" operation. (7)
For its part, the Disclose website stated in a communiqué published after this investigation that the real motive behind bringing this information to light is legal in the first place and affects the nature of these military operations, in addition to the fact that the funding for these operations comes from the budget of the Ministry of Defense, which means the need to disclose all Available information about "Cirly" to parliamentarians as representatives of the French people.
The site is expected to reveal other information and documents in the next few days.
(8) For its part, Egypt has not yet officially commented on what was circulated by the French media, but rather added the "disclose" website to the list of its banned websites from entering Egypt.
Parly demande une enquête après des fuites sur un accord secret avec l'Egypte
L'Égypte utiliserait des renseignements français pour cibler des trafiquants
Pourquoi révéler des informations « secret-défense