An Egyptian fighter jet takes off from an undisclosed location in Egypt to strike militant camps in the Libyan city of Derna on May 26, 2017. (Photo Courtesy of Egyptian military via AP)
The Egyptian military’s operations against terrorist camps in Libya are ongoing, said a military spokesman on Monday evening, following media reports of a second wave of strikes on terrorist targets in the eastern Libyan city of Derna.
Egypt orginally announced that it had conducted airstrikes in Libya on Friday night and Saturday morning in response to a terrorist attack in Egypt that left at least 30 Coptic Christians dead.
However, according to media reports, Libyan commanders said that Egyptian jets had conducted further operations on Monday, hitting more targets in Derna.
In comments to Al-Ahram Arabic news website, military spokespersom Tamer El-Refai said that Egypt’s operations in Libya were continuing, although he did not specifically confirm the strikes on Monday.
“Any power sponsoring or supporting terrorism will be punished, wherever they are,” El-Refai said. “Whoever plots to carry out terrorist operations against Egypt is not beyond the military’s capacity.”
He said the initial round of strikes against training camps in Libya over the weekend had been successful. Egyptian operations were not aimed at a particular militant group, he said, since terrorist organizations were all alike in following extremist ideologies.
The anti-terrorist operations on Friday and Saturday were necessary, he said, to defend Egypt’s national security.
The operations were announced following a deadly attack on Friday that killed 30 Egyptian Christians who had been traveling to a monastery in the governorate of Minya in Upper Egypt. On Saturday the Islamist militant group Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a series of attacks targeting Coptic Christians, including twin bombings in churches in April that killed dozens of worshippers.
In a Friday evening speech following the Minya attack, El-Sisi announced that airstrikes were being launched against a camp that had been a source of terrorists who had carried out attacks in Egypt, without specifying the location.
The army released a video of the operation, stating that it targeted terrorist gatherings in Libya "after confirming their involvement in planning and committing the terrorist attack in Minya governorate on Friday."
According to the Egyptian military, the airstrikes resulted in the complete destruction of the targets, which included areas where terrorist elements were gathering and training.
The Egyptian president also said that Egypt would not hesitate to attack any camps that harbour or train terrorist elements, whether inside the country or abroad.
In recent days, Egypt has stressed through both foreign minister Sameh Shoukry and its envoy at the UN Security Council that the airstrikes against “terrorist strongholds” in eastern Libya came in the framework of “legitimate self-defence”.
However, the response from Libyan authorities has been mixed, according to some sources, reflecting the division of the nation into competing governments in the east and west.
Reuters reported that air forces loyal to eastern Libyan army commander Khalifa Haftar said they participated in the first wave of strikes on targets in Derna.
Meanwhile, the Government of National Accord, which is backed by the UN, denounced the raids as a violation of national sovereignty, said Reuters.