Monday, February 16, 2015

Egypt bombs Islamic State targets in Libya after 21 Egyptians beheaded as Libya's PM calls for international strikes on Islamists

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian jets bombed Islamic State targets in Libya on Monday, a day after the group there released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians, drawing Cairo directly into the conflict across its border.

Egypt said the dawn strike hit militant camps, training sites and weapons storage areas in neighbouring Libya, where civil conflict has plunged the country into near anarchy and created havens for armed factions.

While Cairo is believed to have provided clandestine support to a Libyan general fighting a rogue government in Tripoli, the mass killings pushed President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi into open action, expanding his battle against Islamist militancy.

Libya's air force also participated in Monday's attack on Derna -- an eastern coastal city seen as a base for Islamic State fighters in the oil-rich nation.

"There are casualties among individuals, ammunition and the (Islamic State) communication centres," Libyan air force commander Saqer al-Joroushi told Egyptian state television, adding that between 40 to 50 militants were killed.

It was not possible to confirm those numbers.

"More air strikes will be carried out today and tomorrow in coordination with Egypt," said Joroushi, who is loyal to Libya's internationally recognised government, which has set up camp in the eastern city of Tobruk after losing control of Tripoli.

BAYDA, Libya (Reuters) - Libya's internationally recognised prime minister called for the West to launch air strikes to defeat Islamist militants who control Tripoli and have driven his government out of the capital.

Speaking hours before Egypt bombed Islamic State targets in Libya in retaliation after militants said they had beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni made a plea for Western military intervention in a country rapidly slipping into chaos.

"We have absolutely confirmed information that al Qaeda and IS are in Tripoli and....near Ben Jawad," he said, referring to a central town controlled by a faction that supports a rival government.

"I ask world powers stand by Libya and launch military strikes against these groups," he said. "This threat will move to European countries, especially Italy."