Warplanes Carry Out 3 Strikes on Libya’s Derna, Witness Says
Warplanes launched three airstrikes on the eastern Libyan city of Derna on Monday, a witness said, an apparent continuation of Egyptian raids on the
city that began last week after militants ambushed a bus and killed Egyptian Christians.
There was no immediate confirmation of Monday’s strikes from officials in Libya or neighboring Egypt, nor any claim of responsibility for the raid on the city at the eastern end of Libya’s Mediterranean coast.
However, Egypt has previously acknowledged conducting airstrikes on targets in Libya since Friday and said it would launch further raids if necessary. A powerful Libyan force in the east of the country says it has coordinated air raids with Cairo.
The witness said one attack hit the western entrance to Derna and the other two hit Dahr al-Hamar, an area in the south of the city.
Egyptian jets attacked Derna on Friday, just hours after masked militants boarded vehicles en route to a monastery in the southern Egyptian province of Minya and opened fire at close range, killing 29 and wounding 24.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack in Egypt, the latest targeting the Christian minority there. Two church bombings also claimed by Islamic State killed more than 45 people last month.
According to Yasser Risk, chairman of state newspaper Akhbar Elyoum and former war correspondent with close ties to Egypt’s presidency, 15 targets were hit on the first day of strikes, including in Derna and Jafra, in central Libya, where what he called “terrorism centers” were located.
He said the targets included leadership headquarters as well as training camps and weapons storage facilities and 60 fighter jets were used for the earlier raids. Egypt struck Derna again on Saturday.
Egypt has carried out airstrikes on its neighbor occasionally since Libya descended into factional fighting in the years following the 2011 civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
Islamist militant groups, including Islamic State, have gained ground in the chaos, and Derna, a city of around 150,000 that straddles the coastal highway linking Libya to Egypt, has frequently served as one of their main bases.
Egypt has been backing eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army has been fighting Islamist militant groups and other fighters in Benghazi and Derna for more than two years.
Libyan National Army spokesman Col. Ahmad Messmari told reporters in Benghazi late on Sunday that Haftar’s forces were coordinating with Egypt’s military in airstrikes and the weekend raids targeted ammunition stores and operations camps.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said on Friday the air raids targeted militants responsible for plotting the attack, and that Egypt would not hesitate to carry out additional strikes inside and outside the country.