UAE fighter jets with help from Egypt carried out airstrikes in Libya a week ago amid an ongoing power struggle in the country in the wake of Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster, a senior U.S. official confirms to Fox News.
The Pentagon is not commenting on the matter and AFRICOM said the strikes – which hit targets in the Libyan capital of Tripoli — were not carried out by U.S. aircraft.
Four senior American officials who spoke to the New York Times said Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — both allies — executed the military maneuvers without informing the Obama administration beforehand.
The first wave of airstrikes hit positions in Tripoli controlled by Islamist-friendly militias, including a small weapons depot. The second wave targeted rocket launchers and military vehicles owned by militias, the New York Times reports.
The Islamist forces have been given weapons and support from Qatar, officials told the newspaper.
But the strikes didn’t appear to hold them back. A day after the militants were hit, Tripoli’s airport fell to the Islamists.
The U.A.E. has not commented on the airstrikes but American officials told the New York Times that Egypt provided bases for their planes to conduct the operations.
Meanwhile, Libya’s past, Islamist-dominated parliament reconvened Monday and voted to disband the country’s current interim government, defying voters who elected its opponents to take over.
The power grab highlights the lawlessness that has swept Libya since rebels overthrew Qaddafi in 2011 and later formed powerful militias that successive governments have been unable to tame. It also leaves troubled Libya with two governments and two parliaments, deepenin divisions and escalating the political struggle that’s torn the country apart.
The fighting in Tripoli began after Islamist candidates lost parliament in June elections and a renegade general began a military campaign against Islamist-allied militias in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city.
Libya’s newly elected parliament meanwhile continues to meet in the eastern city of Tobruk, far from the militia violence. Those lawmakers have branded Islamist militias as terrorists, sacked the country’s chief of staff over his alleged links to Islamists and named a new one who vowed Monday to wage war against “terrorists.”
Libya’s interim government is also unable to return to the capital and has been holding its meetings in the eastern city of Bayda. It sent its foreign minister to Egypt to meet officials from neighboring countries to discuss ways to stop the spiraling violence.
The meeting ended with calls for disarming the militias and opposition to outside military intervention in Libya’s affairs.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri warned the gathering that the situation in Libya threatens the entire region and other parts of the world.
“The developments in Libya have left an impact we have felt on the security of neighboring countries, with the presence and movement of extremist and terrorist groups whose activists are not only limited to the Libyan territories but also spill over to neighboring countries,” he said.
Meanwhile Monday, retaliatory attacks swept Tripoli, targeting houses and buildings of Islamist rivals, including Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni. He accused Islamists of attacking his house in Tripoli, then torching and looting it.
“It is impossible that you can impose anything on Libyans using force,” al-Thinni warned. “It will be like a devil who wants to enter heaven.”