Egyptian army sometimes operates in Libya when pursuing illegal smugglers, Libyan foreign minister Mohamed Al-Dairi announced.
In an interview published on Friday by London-based publication Al-Hayat, Al-Dairi said: “Egyptian forces have no presence on Libyan soil, except for when they cross the border to pursue smugglers, something which happens in collaboration with Libya”.
The border covers some 1,000 kilometers and has represented a serious threat to Egyptian security in recent years, with smugglers exploiting it to get weapons and militants in and out of Egypt.
Following the ouster of long-time Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, militias have fought central government forces in a civil war that has ravaged the country, and in the last year some territories have seen a permanent ISIS presence, particularly the eastern city of Derna and the more central Sirte.
In February, ISIS released a chilling video showing the clinical execution of 21 Egyptians, beheaded on a Libyan beach. Egypt reacted immediately by launching airstrikes on ISIS strongholds in Libya.
“There are 5000 ISIS fighters in Derna and Sirte. So the Libyan army’s main task is fighting terrorism, and that might require extra troops and hardware,” Al-Dairi added.
Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi blamed “the international community” for the Libyan crisis and the spread of terrorism there in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday. In 2011, a NATO force drawn from many member-states intervened militarily in Libya.
“The threat posed by terrorism endangers Libya’s neighbors and the rest of Africa, so I emphasise the need encourage engagement with Libyans who believe in a modern state, alongside relentless efforts to eradicate terrorism,” Al-Dairi continued.
Egypt has been a key player in mediating the Libyan crisis since a-Sisi took office in 2014, hosting several meetings for political factions.
Source: Ahram Online