By Noora Ibrahim.
Benghazi, 16 October 2014:
Libyan and Egyptian authorities have both rushed to deny Cairo’s involvement in airstrikes on Benghazi as . . .[restrict]pro-government forces routed a key Islamist base in the city.
Spokesmen for Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, Alaa Youssef, categorically denied that Egypt had played a role in bombing missions over Libya, Egyptian state media reported. Youssef’s brief statement was made less than an hour after reports to the contrary from Associated Press began circulating.
The agency cited two unnamed Egyptian officials as saying “the use of the aircraft was part of an Egyptian-led campaign against the militiamen that will eventually involve Libyan ground troops recently trained by Egyptian forces”.
They said the operation was requested by the government in Tobruk. “This is a battle for Egypt not Libya,” one of the senior officials was quoted as saying. “Egypt was the first country in the region to warn against terrorism and it is also the first to fight it,” he added.
Libyan Authorities also flatly rebuffed claims of Egyptian involvement. The Commander of Operation Dignity’s Airforce, Adam Saqr Geroushi, told the Libya Herald that the operations yesterday in Benghazi had been carried out in totality by Libyans, refusing to comment on the matter further.
His son, Tareq Geroushi, a member of the House of Representatives for Benghazi, had told Associated Press that Egyptian warplanes were being used in raids over Benghazi, but that they were being flown by Libyan pilots. He said the planes were “rented” by the Libyan administration from Egypt.
Another senior military official, who asked not to be named, told this newspaper cryptically that it would be “surprising” if the Egyptians were involved secretly but then at this late stage decided to make it public. He said he could not confirm that Egyptian warplanes were aiding the Tobruk government.
Representative for Misrata Fathi Bashaga, who leads the group of parliamentarians boycotting the House of Representatives, has meanwhile said if the accusations of Egyptian involvement in the attacks are true, it would change the current situation fundamentally.
Buwabat Al-Wasat reported that Bashaga had stated the boycotters would have to reconsider their position with regard to the UN-sponsored dialogue started in Ghadames and that the UN should make clear their position with regard to Egyptian aggression.
This is not the first time Egypt has been implicated in airstrikes on Islamist held positions in Libya. In August, US officials said Egypt had been helping the UAE carry out bomber missions on Libya Dawn forces in Tripoli. [/restrict]