File Photo: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) shakes hands with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry during a meeting at the State Department in Washington, DC, US February 27, 2017 Reuters
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has told his US counterpart Rex Tillerson that Egyptian air strikes on “terrorist strongholds” in eastern Libya came in the framework of “legitimate self-defence.”
In an official statement, foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said Shoukry stressed during a phone call with Tillerson that intelligence and evidence regarding the training of terrorist elements, that he said were behind a deadly attack on Copts in Upper Egypt on Friday, were available.
Egypt’s armed forces carried out intensive air strikes on Friday night and on Saturday, targeting militants in Libya they said were responsible for planning and executing a Friday deadly attack which killed 29 Egyptian Christians who had been travelling to a monastery in the governorate of Minya in Upper Egypt.
On Saturday the Islamist militant group Daesh claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.
The militant group has launched several recent deadly attacks on Coptic Christians, including twin bombings in churches in April which killed dozens of worshippers.
According to the Egyptian army, the airstrikes resulted in the complete destruction of the targets, which included areas where terrorist elements were gathering and training.
Tillerson expressed his country’s support for Egyptian efforts in combating terrorism, the statement read, adding that the US is ready to cooperate with Egypt in the anti-terrorism field, in terms of intelligence and military efforts.
The US secretary of state’s call to the Egyptian foreign minister comes a few hours after President Donald Trump responded to a direct address by Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Friday. Trump affirmed in an official statement that the US stood with Egypt against "the common enemy" of terrorism.
In a Friday evening speech following the Minya attack, El-Sisi said that he trusts the US president’s ability to wage war on terrorism as his first priority.
The Egyptian president also said that Egypt will not hesitate in striking any camps that harbour or train terrorist elements, whether inside the country or abroad.