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El-Sissi denies Libya airstrikes

August 24, 2014

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has denied military involvement in Libya after Cairo was implicated in a deadly airstrike against Islamist militia. Jihadists have accused Libya's parliament of complicity.

Plumes of black smoke (R) is seen after war planes struck Misrata positions in Tripoli in an attack claimed by renegade general Khalifa Haftar, August 23, 2014. The raids killed 10 people and wounded dozens, the Misrata faction said. REUTERS/Stringer
Image: Reuters

El-Sissi said on Sunday that his armed forces had not carried out any military operations outside Egypt "so far."

The Egyptian president said his government was instead involved in seeking a political solution to the unrest across the border.

"There are no Egyptian aircraft or forces in Libya and no Egyptian aircraft participated in military action inside Libya," the official news agency MENA quoted El-Sissi as saying.

The denial came in response to an accusation from Libyan Islamists that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were behind a raid on jihadist militia positions around Tripoli's international airport. The attack on Saturday was said to have killed 13 militia fighters.

"The Emirates and Egypt are implicated in this cowardly aggression," Mohammed Hadia, spokesman for the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) militia, said late on Saturday.

Fajr Libya said the Libyan parliament, which is currently sitting in the city of Tobruk - near the Egyptian border, had lost its legitimacy through compliance with foreign governments.

Unidentified warplanes

The Reuters news agency reported that unidentified war planes had been seen again on Sunday, attacking targets around the Libyan capital.

Renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, meanwhile, claimed that his forces were responsible for both the air attack on Saturday and an earlier airstrike last Monday. However, analysts have voiced skepticism about Haftar's ability to carry out such precision strikes.

Haftar has declared war on Islamist forces who have seized control of significant parts of the country in the aftermath of the overthrow of late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

While Libya has asked for international help in bringing the militia violence under control, the international community has so far appeared reluctant to give any significant military commitment.

The battle for the airport is between two rival fighting groups who were former allies in the struggle to depose Gadhafi - one from the mountain town of Zintan and the other from the port city of Misrata. The Islamist-allied Misrata fighters have stepped up their efforts to seize control of the airport, claiming victory in doing so on Saturday.

rc/glb (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)