by WorldTribune Staff, March 14, 2017
Russia is said to have deployed special forces near the Egypt-Libya border, likely in support of Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar, U.S. and Egyptian diplomatic sources said.
Haftar, who commands the eastern-based Libyan National Army, opposes the UN-backed government in Tripoli.
The American sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States has observed what appeared to be Russian special operations forces and drones at Sidi Barrani in Egypt, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the Egypt-Libya border, Reuters reported on March 13.
Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the top U.S. military commander overseeing troops in Africa, told the U.S. Senate last week that Russia is increasing its presence in Libya in a bid to gain leverage over whoever ultimately holds power.
Egyptian security sources said a 22-member Russian special forces unit had deployed to the area, but declined to discuss its mission. The sources added that Moscow also used another Egyptian base in a part of Libya that is controlled by Haftar in early February.
Haftar suffered a setback on March 3 in an attack by the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) on oil ports controlled by his forces.
The Russian defense ministry did not comment on the reported deployment and Egypt denied the presence of any Russian contingent on its soil.
“There is no foreign soldier from any foreign country on Egyptian soil. This is a matter of sovereignty,” Egyptian army spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said.