A light aircraft crashed a short while after it had taken off at Malta International Airport this Monday. On board were three intelligence officers from France as well as another two French nationals. According to Maltese and French officials all five people on board the plane lost their lives in the crash. The light aircraft was taking off from Malta for a surveillance mission. The mission was part of an operation by French customs. According to sources from the Maltese government, the crash took place at around 0530 GMT.
The Plane Was Part of a French Surveillance Operation
The Maltese government confirmed that the plane was going on a French surveillance operation. The purpose of the surveillance was tracking the illicit trafficking of drugs as well as humans. The French operation had started five months ago and had carried on without any incidents. According to Maltese officials, the flight was registered with the right authorities as a local flight. After flying for several hours, the plane was going to return to Malta. The plane was not supposed to make any stops in any other country.
The plane crash brings attention to operations that France has been running in the region. France is trying to counter any threats that unrest in Libya could cause. The North African country is just a few hundred miles to the south of Malta, a small island country in the Mediterranean Sea. To stay on top of the situation, France has been running a major covert military operation that has involved surveillance of the area.
France has reason to be concerned about Libya, since the Islamic State has been gaining ground there. It has effectively taken control of a portion of territory on the coast of Libya. That raised justifiable concerns in Paris that the Islamic State could make operational use of the territory on the coast. They could use the coast as a base from where to attack Europe.
France Tackling Multiple Problems on the Mediterranean Sea
Also, a problem regarding the Mediterranean Sea is the smuggling of migrants into Europe. Rings of smugglers operate on the sea, taking migrants from North Africa to the coastlines of European countries, including France. The boats are filled past their capacity, often putting the lives of the migrants at risk. But many are willing to take that risk just to get to Europe. European countries have been trying to put an end to human smuggling for a long time. But they have not been successful in shutting down their operations.
France has been undertaking operations in the area for some time now. This July, a helicopter crash in Libya led to the death of three officers of the French DGSE. The DGSE is the external intelligence agency of France that operates under the French Ministry of Defense. After the helicopter crash, France acknowledged that it does have operatives on the ground in Libya.
French officials said that the three intelligence officers that died in the plane crash on Monday were working for the French Ministry of Defense. They were on a reconnaissance mission in the Mediterranean Sea.
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