Libya’s Thani Says New Anti-ISIS Airstrikes Possible with Egypt’s Participation

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Friday, February 27, 2015

Libya's internationally-recognized premier threatened new airstrikes with Egypt against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in his country, warning on Friday that the jihadists were poised to widen their presence there.

Abdullah al-Thani was referring to February 16 airstrikes on the ISIS stronghold of Derna after the group released a video showing the beheading of 21 persons, mostly Egyptians.

Thani was speaking to journalists after meeting Egyptian officials to discuss the security situation in Libya, where ISIS has recently gained a foothold among the many forces vying for control of the oil-rich North African nation.

Following this month's airstrikes, in which Libyan forces also took part, Cairo called for international intervention against ISIS but that appeal was met with reticence by world powers.

But Thani on Friday made it clear that his government and Egypt would act on their own if need be, and reiterated a call for his government to be supplied with arms.

"Any time there is a danger and a threat, there will be airstrikes, in complete coordination between Egypt and Libya," he said.

Asked if that meant Egyptian warplanes would take part, he said: "Of course I am speaking of Egyptian raids."

Using an Arabic acronym for ISIS, he said "Daesh is well-established in the region of Sirte and does not hide its presence in Tripoli. If troops are not provided with the weapons they need, the group will deploy throughout Libya."

On Monday, Amnesty International said in a report that Egypt’s military failed to take the necessary precautions to avoid or minimize incidental harm to civilians during its airstrikes on Derna.

The report was based on the testimony of eyewitnesses who were interviewed by the organization. Seven civilians, including a mother and her three children, were killed in the attack.

The report said, Egypt’s war planes fired two missiles into a heavily populated residential area called Sheiha al-Gharbiya, close to the city’s university, according to eyewitnesses.

Last week, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Dairi appealed to the UN Security Council to lift an arms embargo on Libya to allow its military to fight jihadists.

He emphasized that he was not seeking international military intervention, but that there was no time to lose to equip the army to confront the emboldened extremists.

Libya has descended into chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed revolt that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Thani's government was forced to flee to the country's east in June after militias, among them Islamists, seized Tripoli and other main cities.

Some militias have pledged allegiance to ISIS, but the main ones, including the Islamist-backed Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) coalition that backs a rival government in Tripoli and has been involved in the peace talks, have not done so.

The chaos in Libya contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of migrants attempting to travel across the Mediterranean to Europe.

At the same time, particularly since the recent beheadings, more than 25,000 Egyptians fled the country, the foreign ministry said in Cairo on Friday.

The ministry said 21,407 returned overland, while another 4,122 crossed into Tunisia, from where they were flown home on government-chartered flights.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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