Egypt warplanes hit militias, officials say
BENGHAZI, Libya (AP):Egypt is deepening its involvement in the fight against Islamist militias who have taken over key parts of Libya, with officials saying Egyptian warplanes have bombed their positions in the eastern city of Benghazi.
The two officials, who have first-hand knowledge of the operation, said 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.
The operation, they said, was requested by the internationally recognised Libyan administration based in the eastern city of Tobruk. That elected administration was thrown out of the capital, Tripoli, by rival militias allied with Islamic political factions.
The officials said the operation also involves the use of an Egyptian navy vessel as a command centre off the Mediterranean shore of Tobruk. Renegade Libyan general, Khalifa Hiftar, is not leading the operation, with Cairo dealing directly with a newly appointed Libyan chief of staff who has visited Egypt several times in recent weeks.
The operation was expected to last three to six months, said the officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
Libyan lawmaker Tareq al-Jorushi confirmed to the AP that Egyptian warplanes were taking part in the ongoing operation in Benghazi, but said that they were being flown by Libyan pilots. He says the planes were "rented" by the Libyan administration from Egypt. Al-Jorushi is also a member of the national security committee in the Tobruk-based parliament.
In an official statement posted on the state-run news agency, Egyptian Presidency spokesman Alaa Youssef denied that Egyptian planes were striking targets in Libya.