France has deployed special forces in northern Syria

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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 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 jihadists’ stronghold of Raqa.

The French special forces will not intervene militarily themselves and are not supposed to engage in combat with IS militants, the defence ministry official said.

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 currently deployed in 17 countries, mainly in the Sahel, the military said.

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