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MILITARY

France withdraws carrier from Libya mission

France said Thursday its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle would return home for maintenance next week from the NATO-led mission over Libya, but insisted there would be no respite for Muammar Qaddafi.

France withdraws carrier from Libya mission

The vessel, France’s only aircraft carrier and Europe’s biggest warship, will leave on August 10 to head for its home port of Toulon for several weeks of work, defence minister Gerard Longuet told Var-Matin newspaper.

The French navy website however said Thursday it would take “several months” to complete the work on the ship that has been engaged in the operation since March 22.

Longuet insisted that France would maintain its commitment to the Libya mission, where since March the alliance has conducted air strikes against Qaddafi’s forces as part of a UN mandate to protect civilians.

“Qaddafi should not expect any respite,” he said, adding that French warplanes would keep up their strikes and reconnaissance flights from land bases.

NATO allies are in a hurry to bring the air war in Libya to a victorious end but are having to carry on with a shrinking alliance after Norway withdrew its jets and Italy pulled an aircraft carrier.

Longuet’s announcement came three days after Norway withdrew its final four F-16 fighter jets.

Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler, last month scaled back its involvement in the operation by withdrawing the aircraft carrier Garibaldi.

Only eight of NATO’s 28 member states have flown bombing missions since the alliance took command of the operation in late March: Norway, Britain, France, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and the United States.

London has increased its contribution by adding four Tornado jets, effectively making up for the loss of the Norwegian planes.

A total of 17,566 air sorties, including 6,648 bombing sorties, have been conducted since the beginning of the NATO operation over Libya.

With Qaddafi refusing to step down, allied tactics and diplomatic messages are under adjustment. The United States, France and Britain indicated in recent days the dictator could stay in Libya if he cedes power – an option the rebels have rejected.

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WAR

French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron

French forces "tortured and murdered" Algerian freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel during his country's war for independence, President Emmanuel Macron admitted on Tuesday, officially reappraising a death that was covered up as a suicide.

French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron
Malika, the widow of Ali Boumendjel, pictured in 2001. Photo: Stefan Fferberg/AFP

Macron made the admission “in the name of France” during a meeting with Boumendjel’s grandchildren.

The move comes after Macron in January refused to issue an official apology for abuses committed during the occupation of Algeria – instead, he agreed to form a “truth commission” as recommended by a report commissioned by the government to shed light on France’s colonial past.

Atrocities committed by both sides during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence continue to strain relations between the countries.

Boumendjel, a nationalist and lawyer, was arrested during the battle of Algiers by the French army, “placed incommunicado, tortured, and then killed on 23 March 1957,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

“Ali Boumendjel did not commit suicide. He was tortured and then killed,” Macron told Boumendjel’s grandchildren, according to the statement.

It is not the first time the real cause of death was acknowledged.

In 2000, the former head of French intelligence in Algiers Paul Aussaresses confessed to ordering Boumendjel’s death and disguising the murder as a suicide, according to the statement.

It added that Macron on Tuesday had also reiterated his desire to give families the opportunity to find out the truth about this chapter of history.

Last month, Boumendjel’s niece Fadela Boumendjel-Chitour denounced what she called the “devastating” lie the French state had told about her uncle.

French historian Benjamin Stora, who wrote the government-commissioned report, has said there is a “never-ending memory war” between the two countries.

The report has been described by the Algerian government as “not objective” and falling “below expectations.”

During his 2017 election campaign, Macron – the first president born after the colonial period – declared that the occupation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity”.

He has since said there was “no question of showing repentance” or of “presenting an apology” for abuses committed in the North African country.

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