Sources in Libya say French special forces are among those working against Islamic State in the country. A small French detachment has been operating from Benghazi’s Benina airport, the sources have reported, assisting forces of the internationally-backed Libyan authorities in Tobruk.

Le Monde said special forces units, alongside the DGSE, France’s external security directorate, have been in Libya for several months, and coordinated the November US strike on Derna which killed the most senior Isis leader in the country, Iraqi Abu Nabil al-Anbari. The Pentagon has confirmed that US forces were deployed there in January.

At a foreign affairs select committee hearings in London earlier this month, UK Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood declined to comment on British special forces operations, but said the RAF is flying missions over the country in preparation for possible attacks on IS. Italy announced on Monday that it would allow armed US drones to strike Libyan targets from bases in Sicily.

Isis fighters stormed the centre of the coastal town of Sabratha on Tuesday, four days after 41 of their number were killed in a US bombing raid, battling through the night with local militias. The police station was overrun, and when it was recaptured militia forces found the bodies of 11 beheaded police officers.