Egypt deepens its involvement in fight against Islamist militias who have taken over key parts of Libya, with unnamed officials saying Egyptian warplanes have bombed their positions in the city of Benghazi.
Egyptian warplanes are flying bombing raids over the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, targeting positions held by Islamist militants, two unnamed Egyptian officials said on Wednesday.
They said the raids were part of an Egyptian-led operation that would later involve Libyan ground troops recently trained by Egyptian forces.
However, the Egyptian government later denied that its planes were being used for such a purpose.
The bombing raids were reportedly part of a large-scale operation to rid the city of militants who have established a foothold there.
Libya has been sliding into chaos since the dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled three years ago, with interim authorities confronted by powerful militias that fought to oust him.
The air raids were requested by the internationally recognised Libyan administration based in the eastern city of Tobruk, the officials told The Associated Press news agency. That elected administration was thrown out of Tripoli by rival militias allied with Islamist political factions.
“This is a battle for Egypt not Libya,” one of the senior officials said. “Egypt was the first country in the region to warn against terrorism and it is also the first to fight it.”
Renewed fighting broke out in Benghazi on Wednesday morning, a day after Khalifa Haftar, a retired Libyan general, pledged to “liberate” the city from the Islamist militia. Gen Haftar launched an offensive called Operation Dignity against militias in Benghazi in May, but his forces were repelled from the city in July.
Libyan lawmaker Tareq al-Jorushi confirmed to the AP that Egyptian warplanes were taking part in the ongoing operation in Benghazi, but said that they were being flown by Libyan pilots. He says the planes were “rented” by the Libyan administration from Egypt.
Al-Jorushi is awaiting confirmation of his appointment on the Tobruk-based parliament’s national security committee, which is responsible for such issues. He is also the son of the head of Libya’s air force, Gen. Saqr al-Jorushi. He said he learned that the planes are Egyptian from the new chief of staff.
In an official statement posted on Egypt’s state-run news agency however, presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef denied that Egyptian planes were striking targets in Libya.
The Daily Telegraph
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