Thursday, Dec 18, 2014

Officials: Egypt, UAE behind airstrikes in Libya

Libya is undergoing its worst violence since the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi three years ago.  (Source: Reuters) Libya is undergoing its worst violence since the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi three years ago. (Source: Reuters)
By: Associated Press | Washington | Posted: August 27, 2014 10:13 am

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates secretly carried out airstrikes against Islamist militias inside Libya, a State Department spokeswoman said Tuesday, decrying the intervention as an escalation of the North African country’s already debilitating turmoil. U.S. officials said the United States had no prior notification of the attacks.

One official said the two countries and Saudi Arabia have been supporting for months a renegade general’s campaign against Libyan militant groups, but that the Saudis don’t appear to have played a role in recent strikes. Another official said Washington knew about Egyptian and U.A.E. plans for a possible operation and warned them against going through with the effort.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that Egypt and U.A.E. had carried out the strikes.

Libya is undergoing its worst violence since the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi three years ago. Tripoli’s international airport is largely destroyed. Diplomats, foreign nationals and thousands of Libyans have fled the country.

The violence has its roots in the collapse of the Libyan state with Gadhafi’s demise, as powerful militias seized power and the central government proved unable to create a strong police force or unified military. In recent months, Islamist fighters have faced backlash, losing their power in parliament after June elections and facing a counteroffensive by former Gadhafi and rebel Gen. Khalifa Hifter. Washington doesn’t support the general. But some of Libya’s regional allies, fearful of the growing power of the Islamist extremists, have helped Hifter.

A U.S. official said recent airstrikes weren’t done with authorization from Libya’s government.

The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. The Egyptian and U.A.E. role in the strikes was first reported by The New York Times.

In a joint statement, the United States joined with Britain, France, Germany and Italy in expressing its concerns, saying “”outside interference in Libya exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition.”

And the newly appointed U.N. envoy to Libya said he doesn’t believe foreign intervention is helpful. The diplomat, Bernardino Leon, said only an inclusive political process with all Libyans represented in parliament, government and other state institutions will end the instability gripping the country.

“Any kind of intervention or foreign intervention won’t help Libya get out of chaos,” Leon said.

American officials have not attributed the strikes to any country publicly. Egypt has repeatedly denied involvement. Emirati officials have not commented.

Islamist militias in Libya have made similar allegations against Egypt and the U.A.E. following two days of mysterious airstrikes against Islamist-allied militia positions in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, since Aug. 18.

The strikes happened as Islamist-backed militias were fighting for control of Tripoli’s international airport. Libyan officials have repeatedly called the airstrikes “foreign,” and the country’s air force likely does not have the capability to fly night sorties.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh continued…

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