French firm says met Libya rebels, snubbed Kadhafi
A French security firm whose head was killed in a stronghold of Libya's rebels said Friday it had been in touch with them and denied working for Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi.
The firm Secopex said in a statement that the rebels asked if it could provide them with security services. One of the firm's other senior members was quoted separately saying he turned down an offer to work for Kadhafi.
"Contact had been made with the National Transitional Council (the rebel NTC), which had also asked for support in training and equipment," said a statement from Secopex, based in southwestern France.
Its chairman Pierre Marziali "was due to meet the NTC on Thursday" but was killed the night before that, the firm said, adding that it had no news of his four companions arrested during the same incident.
Some European diplomatic sources in Benghazi said the men were spies in the pay of Kadhafi, whose forces control most of the western part of the country.
This suspicion was fuelled by a trip made to Tripoli by another of the company's chairmen, Robert Dulas, in recent days.
He insisted the company had been open with the rebels about that visit.
"It was the Tripoli regime (of Kadhafi) that called us, but we declined their requests except for the possibility of working on improving their communications," he told Liberation.
He said Secopex had already met in Benghazi with senior leaders of the Council which had "asked us to provide training."
"We did not hide from them the fact that Benghazi is a market for us."
Ex-paratrooper Marziali "was working on setting up an outpost to offer bodyguard services to businessmen and a secure corridor from Cairo to Benghazi," a route for foreigners into the Libyan warzone, the company said.
It said Marziali, a married man with a 20-year-old son, was killed during a police check after he came out of a restaurant with four companions, "of whom there is still no news."
Private security industry sources told AFP that Secopex's activities have raised concerns in the French intelligence community. But Dulas insisted his firm had had an "orange light" from French authorities to go to Benghazi.
He added: "Pierre had just arrived (in Benghazi) after a 15-hour drive from Cairo. One of our members telephoned me from there to say everything was OK. Two hours later, he was killed. Something doesn't make sense."
Secopex said Marziali was a decorated 25-year veteran of French army parachute units and had run "difficult missions" in several African countries as well as the former Yugoslavia before leaving the military in 2007.
Providing and training bodyguards and advising on security, "with wide networks at its disposal, the company is developing and is on the verge of finalising major contracts in countries of the Middle East," the statement said.
© 2011 AFP