Egypt “killed civilians” with secret French military support, report

Investigative website reveals that the French forces sent to support their Egyptian counterparts have been involved in at least 19 airstrikes against civilians in Egypt between 2016 and 2018.

Disclose, an investigative website published a report on November 21, based on hundreds of classified French documents, showing that Egypt used intelligence provided by the French military to kill civilians.

Disclose has obtained hundreds of secret documents, circulated at the highest levels of the French state, which reveal the responsibility of France in crimes committed by the dictatorship of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt, where readers can discover “the terror memos” in the website’s week-long series of investigative reports, beginning Sunday November 21st.

Egypt has reportedly used intelligence supplied by the French military to target and kill civilians suspected of smuggling, according to Disclose, based on leaked documents.

According to the report, titled, “Operation Sirli”, French intelligence was meant to support Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts on the border with Libya.

It quickly became clear, however, that Egypt was instead using it to “facilitate the murders of civilians who were suspected of smuggling activity.” 

According to Disclose’s sources, the French forces sent to support their Egyptian counterparts may have been involved in at least 19 airstrikes against civilians between 2016 and 2018 in Egypt.

The French team reportedly expressed concerns to their superiors over how the intelligence was being abused on a number of occasions, and “​​the French presidential office was kept constantly informed,” but neither the political nor military leadership took any action in response.

As shocking as the revelations are, this would not be the first time that Egyptian security forces took advantage of foreign military support, including U.S. equipment, to attack civilians:

The year before these bombings began, Egyptian forces used a U.S.-supplied Boeing Apache helicopter to target a tour group, killing 12 people and leaving U.S. citizen April Corley permanently disabled, reported The Washington Post.

Allison McManus, research director at the Freedom Initiative, said that Disclose’s documents provide further proof that “France knew Egypt was killing civilians in the name of counterterrorism before and during its surveillance operations in the country (just as the United States knows and continues to supply arms, like the Hellfire missiles referenced in the report).”

French opposition deputies andAmnesty Internationalboth called for the creation of a parliamentary commission to investigate the revelations, while Amnesty added that “human rights must come before strategic interests.”

Neither the French presidency nor the military responded to requests for comment from the journalists who carried out the investigation.

The day after the report was published, the French Ministry of Armed Forces announced that it was launching an investigation “into the information disseminated by Disclose,” though it did not specify whether the focus would be the revelations from the leaks or the leaks themselves.

Disclose, meanwhile, continues to publish more findings from the documents.

Although France has expressed a desire to refocus its arms exports on Europe, Egypt remains one of its main clients. Its sales there increased considerably when Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power in 2014. Since then, Egypt has bought France’s Rafale fighter aircraft, a frigate, four corvettes, and two Mistral helicopter carriers.

In December 2020, Macron awarded al-Sisi the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, the highest honor France has to offer, provoking outrage from activists who have criticized his human rights record.