France has begun supplying weapons to the Libyan rebels despite the UN arms embargo, confirming on Wednesday it had dropped assault rifles into the Nafusa Mountains south-west of Tripoli.
The air drop would appear to be in violation of the arms embargo against Libya instituted by the United Nations. But Nato officials believe that the UN security council resolution 1973 which authorised the bombing campaign allows for a wide range of actions in furtherance of the mission to “protect civilians”.
France has emerged as the most prominent backer of Syria’s armed opposition and is now directly funding rebel groups around Aleppo as part of a new push to oust the embattled Assad regime.
Large sums of cash have been delivered by French government proxies across the Turkish border to rebel commanders in the past month, diplomatic sources have confirmed. The money has been used to buy weapons inside Syria and to fund armed operations against loyalist forces.
Nearly a fifth of fighters are residents or nationals of Western European countries,and an estimated 1,200 people have travelled from France alone.
This flow of foreign fighters has alarmed governments around the world, raising fears that returnees from may plot attacks in their home nations. Scotland Yard said that at least half of the 700 British residents – a statistic from the British police – suspected of fighting alongside Isil are now back in the UK.
“French intelligence is mostly focused today on more than 1,000 French citizens that traveled to Syria and Iraq since 2012,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, the author of “Zarqawi: The New Face of Al-Qaeda.”
He added that one-fifth of them were being tracked around the clock. “This is a problem of resources,” he added. “We cannot follow everyone.”
While the suspect of the Nice attack, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, is so far not being publicly linked to terrorist groups, he did have a criminal record and was well known to French police.