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French military in Syria advising rebels, says defence ministry

France said military personnel deployed to Syria are working only in an advisory capacity to 'democratic' Kurdish-led group
A Soldier of the 3rd Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment of Carcassone carries out an assault during the "Cut Away 2016" military exercises in May 2016 (AFP)
France has deployed special forces in northern Syria to advise the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting the Islamic State group, a defence ministry official said on Thursday.
 
"The offensive at Manbij is clearly being backed by a certain number of states including France. It's the usual support - it's advisory," the official told AFP, without giving further details on the deployment.
 
France until now has only acknowledged the presence in the region of around 150 members of its special forces, deployed in Iraqi Kurdistan.
 
The SDF, a US-backed Kurdish and Arab alliance, are on the northern edge of Manbij, a strategic town held by IS that serves as a waypoint between the Turkish border and the IS stronghold of Raqqa.
 
Tabqa, another IS-held transit town which lies near Syria's largest dam, is also under attack.
 
France has 2,500 men in its special forces, of whom around 400 are deployed in 17 countries, mainly in the Sahel, the military said.
 
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had indicated last Friday, in remarks to a small state television channel covering French politics, that French troops were helping operations at Manbij.
 
"We are providing support through weapons supplies, air presence and advice," he told the Public Senate channel.
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