Egypt launches airstrikes in Libya to answer attack on Christians

by WorldTribune Staff, May 30, 2017

Egyptian jets hit the Libyan city of Derna on May 29 in attacks targeting terrorists in response to an ambush that killed 29 Egyptian Christians last week.

Libyan operational commander Brig. Abdulsalam Al-Hasi told Reuters the strikes targeted Majlis Mujahideen Derna and Abu Salim brigade, two local Libyan groups allied with Al Qaida.

Derna, a city of about 150,000, straddles the coastal highway linking Libya to Egypt and has a long history with Islamist militancy.

“The airstrikes are joint ones between the Libyan National Army and Egyptian army,” said Ahmad Messmari, a spokesman for the Libyan National Army.

Egypt has been backing Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which has been fighting Islamist terrorist groups and other fighters in Benghazi and Derna for more than two years.

Messmari told reporters in Benghazi on May 28 that Haftar’s forces were coordinating with Egypt’s military and that weekend raids targeted ammunition stores and operations camps.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Egypt had targeted militant bases in Libya “to get rid of them and to limit their ability to threaten Egypt’s national security.”

Egyptian military spokesman Col. Tamer al-Refaei said the military was not targeting a specific militant group because it did not differentiate between various factions.

Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for last week’s attack in Egypt in which masked men boarded vehicles driving dozens of people to a monastery in the southern Egyptian province of Minya, killing 29. Three church bombings since December, also claimed by ISIS, have killed more than 70 people.

Egyptian state-owned newspaper Akhbar reported that two men responsible for planning the Minya attack had also been involved in the church bombings. The two, now on the run, had been helped by accomplices from Libya who supported ISIS, the report said.

Akhbar quoted security sources as saying the two men had provided weapons and cars for the gunmen, some of whom belonged to ISIS’s Libyan affiliate.

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