Three French soldiers have been killed on a mission in Libya, after their helicopter was shot down, the country’s defense ministry said Wednesday.
“At this moment we are carrying out dangerous intelligence operations (in Libya),” President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday, in a speech.
“Three of our soldiers, who were involved in these operations, have been killed in a helicopter accident.”
The news followed the government earlier confirmation that it had Special Forces operating in the North African nation, although the ministry did not say if the dead were part of those operations.
A short statement said the soldiers died “while on mission”.
“Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian deplores the death of three non-commissioned officers while operating in Libya,” the ministry said.
“He lauds the bravery and devotion of French military personnel who each day are carrying out dangerous missions against terrorists,” he said.
Associated Press had quoted Libyan officials as saying that an Islamist militia shot down a French helicopter on Tuesday.
The attack on Sunday happened near the city of Benghazi, and left no survivors, AP reported.
Defense and foreign ministers from more than 30 nations were gathering in Washington on Wednesday to address the fight against ISIS, with Libya occupying a prominent place on the agenda.
Ahead of the meeting French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll confirmed that the country’s special forces were present in Libya.
“Yes, special forces are there,” he told France Info Radio on Wednesday. “To help and also ensure that France is present everywhere in the fight against terrorists.”