CAIRO/BENGHAZI – Egypt launched a fresh round of air strikes over Libya on Saturday, Egyptian military sources and an eyewitness told Reuters, targeting militant camps it said were responsible for a shooting spree that killed dozens of Egyptian Christians.
On Friday, Egyptian fighter jets struck eastern Libya just hours after a shooting that killed 29 and wounded 24 in the southern Egyptian province of Minya when masked militants boarded vehicles en route to a monastery and opened fire at close range.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest directed at Egypt’s increasingly embattled Christian minority following two church bombings last month that killed more than 45, also claimed by the group.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Friday he had ordered air raids on militant camps in Libya, where he said the Minya gunmen had trained, though he did not name a specific group responsible.
Sisi, who has presented himself as a bulwark against Islamist militants in the region, said Egypt would not hesitate to carry out additional strikes inside and outside the country to quash future threats.
Two military sources told Reuters that three additional air raids on Saturday morning struck the area of Derna, a city where east Libyan forces led by Khalifa Haftar, a close ally of Egypt, have been trying to gain control from Islamists and other opponents.
A source in Haftar’s Libyan National Army told Reuters that they had coordinated with Egyptian counterparts to strike ammunition stores belonging to the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council, an Islamist umbrella group that opposes Islamic State.
A resident in Derna told Reuters that warplanes were seen striking the Dahr Al-Hamar area in the southern part of Derna on Saturday. Egypt’s military spokesman declined to comment on the second round of strikes.
Egypt’s foreign ministry said it had delivered a letter on Saturday to the United Nations Security Council informing it that the strikes were conducted as an act of legitimate self-defence, according to a ministry statement.
Derna has a history of Islamist militancy and is where Islamic State set up its first presence in Libya in 2014. However, the jihadist group was later chased from the city by local fighters and rival Islamists.
The east Libyan air force said Friday the strikes were targeting al-Qaeda linked forces and did not mention Islamic State.
Egypt’s military said in a statement it had “conducted several intensive day and night-time strikes” that successfully destroyed many targets, including training camps responsible for the Minya attack.
A video uploaded to the military’s Facebook page depicted fighter jets being armed with missiles and taking off as well as aerial footage of air strikes.