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Libyan al-Qaeda linked militants deny involvement in Egypt massare

The Minya attack left 30 people dead [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 28 May, 2017

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Al-Qaeda linked Libyan militants Mujahideen Shura Council in Derna have denied involvement in a deadly attack on Egypt's Coptic Christians as Egyptian planes target the group for a second day.

A Libyan al-Qaeda linked militant group has denied involvement in a deadly attack on Egypt's Coptic Christians after Egyptian armed forces launched a second round of retaliatory airstrikes on its bases in Derna on Sunday, eastern Libya.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the Mujahideen Shura Council in Derna (MSCD) said it does not target unarmed civilians in Libya or Egypt, adding said Cairo's air strikes were "a diversion to the Egyptian Public from [President] Sisi's failure to address the security and economic crises" in the country.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Friday's attack, when gunmen targeted a bus carrying Christians on a visit to a monastery in Egypt's Minya province.

The shooting left 30 people including two children dead, horrifying the nation.

In response, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a speech at the presidential palace late on Friday that "extremist camps" in Libya had been hit in air raids.

He appealed directly to US President Donald Trump - who Sisi met with in the Saudi capital this week - to take the lead in fighting terror.

"Your Excellency, I trust that you will be capable of making fighting global terrorism your first priority," the army chief-turned-president said.

He alleged that embattled IS outfits in Syria have fled the country and sought refuge in Libya. He said their new goal was to bring down the Egyptian state by "sowing sedition between Christians and Muslims".

Egypt's foreign ministry said it had delivered a letter on Saturday to the United Nations Security Council informing it that the strikes were conducted as an act of "legitimate self-defence", according to a ministry statement.

Cairo claims it has proof that militant fighters based in Derna carried out the massacre in Minya.

Egypt's air strikes on the Libyan city continued for a second day on Saturday, with war planes were seen striking the Dahr al-Hamar area in Derna, sources and an eyewitness told Reuters.

Derna was known as a bastion of militant Islam even before the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Libya's longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

After the revolt, the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia slowly spread its presence to the city.

In 2014, some militants defected to join IS, which took control of Derna.

Pro-al-Qaeda elements opposed to IS banded together to form MSCD to fight both the group and forces led by Libyan military general Khalifa Haftar. After sustained fighting, in 2015 the IS militants fled from the city.

Haftar's forces regularly carry out air raids on positions of the jihadi alliance.

Libya's Islamists accuse Haftar's international allies - Egypt and the UAE - of taking part in these strikes.

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