Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Ivory Coast - Some Unusual "Private Contractors"

Le Monde reports extensively on the background of the Ivory Coast crisis. Interestingly, it seems that an embarrassing situation was narrowly avoided when the French occupied the Hotel Ivoire (the best in town, naturally) as their HQ and evacuee registration point. On the 21st floor, they discovered a telephone-tapping centre operated by some 46 Israeli technicians, 24 hours a day. (Look what I found!) Presumably this organisation was working for the Ivorian government, although the article does not say so directly.

The Israelis - despite officially being just "private contractors" - were speedily evacuated by an Italian aircraft. Unlike the rest of the evacuees, though, they didn't pass through the French camp or the French-run airport terminal, but were taken directly to the aircraft. (That might be in the sense of taken directly to the aircraft and shoved through the door by huge Foreign Legionnaires, especially if the French suspected that they'd been monitoring their own signals.) Another interesting question is raised by the mention of an Israeli embargo on "materiel securitaire" (security equipment) for the country. Apparently this referred to remotely-piloted aircraft (drones) - and the French have apparently seized at least one of the same. Information from a GPS receiver aboard the drone, allegedly, shows that the Ivorians had reconnoitred the French position they bombed in advance.

All very interesting. Does the presence of this mysterious sigint centre suggest that the Israelis are boosting their intelligence presence in West Africa?

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