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UK to deploy 'up to 50' soldiers to battle IS in Libya: Report

Daily Mail reports that the RAF recently carried out 'cyber attack' against Islamic State's stronghold of Sirte in Libya
US and British soldiers make acquaintances as they train Iraq's 72nd Brigade for live-fire exercise in Basmaya base (AFP)

Up to 50 British soldiers are expected to be deployed to Libya in the next week, as the international fight against the Islamic State (IS) group is stepped up, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

Unidentified defence sources told the British daily that forces from C Squadron, Special Boat Service (SBS) would be sent to war-torn Libya to battle an increasing threat from IS.

The Mail also reported that Britain’s Royal Air Force has carried out “electronic warfare” against IS by jamming communications signals in the group’s Libyan stronghold of Sirte.

The operation was carried out by the RAF’s Rivet Joint spy plane.

RAF radio experts tuned “into the enemy’s preferred frequencies” and “used high-powered transmitters built into the aircraft to broadcast interference on the same wavelength, drowning out the enemy’s conversations".

An unidentified source told the Mail: “They were very angry and couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. We jammed the frequencies for 40 minutes – long enough to prove the capability, but not so long that IS realised what was happening.

“All enemy communications including mobile phones and the internet are vulnerable to interception. It is best practice to monitor these means and gather information, then occasionally use jamming strikes to spread confusion among their ranks at vital times.

“There is a shortage of human sources within IS in Libya, so whatever intelligence we can gather from listening to their conversations, the better.”

The Mail said it did not disclose the date of the cyber attack for “security reasons”.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence declined to comment on the report, stating that “we do not comment on special forces.”

Reports of British military operations in Libya follow Middle East Eye’s revelation in March that SAS troops were working together with their Jordanian counterparts in operations against IS in Libya.

At the time, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, a former British army officer and chair of Britain’s foreign affairs panel, told MEE that the distinction between conventional troops and the SAS was “slightly artificial”.

He called for a “more coherent” military strategy and said this would “require an engagement of parliament".

Libya has become an increasing concern for European nations, as the chaos that has reigned since the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi spawned a potent IS branch.

There are an estimated 6,000 IS fighters in Libya, and there is no unified Libyan authority to command a battle to defeat the militants, who control Sirte, the town where Gaddafi was born.

European nations have cited a UN-backed Government of National Accord as the only route for Libya to end years of civil war and form a central authority to rebuild a shattered state.

Since 2011, militias have dominated the country and rival governments have battled for control of a place that is home to the largest oil and gas reserves in Africa.

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