Frenchman shot in Libya founded private security firm

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A Frenchman shot dead in Libya's rebel bastion Benghazi was a former paratrooper who founded a private security outfit seeking contracts in Africa, industry sources told AFP Friday.

The man killed on Thursday was 47-year-old Pierre Marziali, who founded the company Secopex in 2003. The firm bills itself as employing a roster of former soldiers to offer "strategic and operational support" to companies in dangerous regions.

Contacted by AFP, Secopex confirmed that it had personnel in Benghazi, but refused to make any other comment. Rebel and diplomatic sources in the Libyan city told AFP that four more Frenchmen have been arrested there.

Marziali was a former non-commissioned officer with lengthy experience in the Third Marine Parachute Infantry Regiment (3e RPIMA) based in Carcassonne, the southwestern French town that is also home to Secopex.

In an interview with AFP in 2008 he boasted that his firm could field up to 2,000 veteran military specialists ranging from divers, pilots and translators to training officers and combat medics.

He also claimed to have signed a contract to provide war-torn Somalia's beleaguered interim government with a coast guard unit to combat pirates, but nothing ever appears to have come of this alleged deal.

Private security industry sources told AFP that Secopex's activities have raised concerns in the French intelligence community.

French law permits private companies to provide military trainers and advisors, but not mercenary troops to fight in foreign wars.

On Thursday, officials and diplomatic sources in Benghazi told AFP one French security contractor was shot dead and four others were arrested in a murky incident at a rebel checkpoint.

The French foreign ministry confirmed that one French national had died.

European diplomatic sources here said the men were former French soldiers prospecting for new contracts in Benghazi.

© 2011 AFP

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