Egypt launches 2nd day of Libyan air strikes after attack on Christians

In this still image taken from video provided by the Egyptian military, an Egyptian fighter jet takes off from an undisclosed location in Egypt to strike militant hideouts in the Libyan city of Darna, on Friday. (AP)
Updated 28 May 2017
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Egypt launches 2nd day of Libyan air strikes after attack on Christians

CAIRO/BENGHAZI: Egypt launched a fresh round of air strikes over Libya on Saturday, Egyptian military sources and an eyewitness told Reuters, targeting militant camps it said were responsible for a shooting spree that killed dozens of Egyptian Christians.
On Friday, Egyptian fighter jets struck eastern Libya just hours after a shooting that killed 29 and wounded 24 in the southern Egyptian province of Minya when masked militants boarded vehicles en route to a monastery and opened fire at close range.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest directed at Egypt’s increasingly embattled Christian minority following two church bombings last month that killed more than 45, also claimed by the group.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said on Friday he had ordered air raids on militant camps in Libya, where he said the Minya gunmen had trained, though he did not name a specific group responsible.
Sissi, who has presented himself as a bulwark against militants in the region, said Egypt would not hesitate to carry out additional strikes inside and outside the country to quash future threats.
Two military sources told Reuters that three additional air raids on Saturday morning struck the area of Derna, a city where east Libyan forces led by Khalifa Haftar, a close ally of Egypt, have been trying to gain control from militants and other opponents.
A source in Haftar’s Libyan National Army told Reuters that they had coordinated with Egyptian counterparts to strike ammunition stores belonging to the Derna Mujahideen Shoura Council, an Islamist umbrella group that opposes Daesh.
A resident in Derna told Reuters that warplanes were seen striking the Dahr Al-Hamar area in the southern part of Derna on Saturday. Egypt’s military spokesman declined to comment on the second round of strikes.
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-defense, according to a ministry statement.
Derna has a history of militancy and is where Daesh set up its first presence in Libya in 2014. However, the jihadist group was later chased from the city by local fighters and rival groups.
The east Libyan air force said Friday the strikes were targeting Al-Qaeda linked forces and did not mention Daesh.
Egypt’s military said in a statement it had “conducted several intensive day and night-time strikes” that successfully destroyed many targets, including training camps responsible for the Minya attack.
A video uploaded to the military’s Facebook page depicted fighter jets being armed with missiles and taking off as well as aerial footage of air strikes.


US military to present several options to Trump on Iran

Updated 6 min 57 sec ago

US military to present several options to Trump on Iran

  • Donald Trump will also be warned that military action against the Islamic Republic could escalate into war
  • The US response could involve military, political and economic actions

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon will present a broad range of military options to President Donald Trump on Friday as he considers how to respond to what administration officials say was an unprecedented Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.
In a White House meeting, the president will be presented with a list of potential airstrike targets inside Iran, among other possible responses, and he also will be warned that military action against the Islamic Republic could escalate into war, according to US officials familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The national security meeting will likely be the first opportunity for a decision on how the US should respond to the attack on a key Middle East ally. Any decision may depend on what kind of evidence the US and Saudi investigators are able to provide proving that the cruise missile and drone strike was launched by Iran, as a number of officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have asserted.
Iran has denied involvement and warned the US that any attack will spark an “all-out war” with immediate retaliation from Tehran.
Both Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence have condemned the attack on Saudi oil facilities as “an act of war.” Pence said Trump will “review the facts, and he’ll make a decision about next steps. But the American people can be confident that the United States of America is going to defend our interest in the region, and we’re going to stand with our allies.”
The US response could involve military, political and economic actions, and the military options could range from no action at all to airstrikes or less visible moves such as cyberattacks. One likely move would be for the US to provide additional military support to help Saudi Arabia defend itself from attacks from the north, since most of its defenses have focused on threats from Houthis in Yemen to the south.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, emphasized to a small number of journalists traveling with him Monday that the question of whether the US responds is a “political judgment” and not for the military.
“It is my job to provide military options to the president should he decide to respond with military force,” Dunford said.
Trump will want “a full range of options,” he said. “In the Middle East, of course, we have military forces there and we do a lot of planning and we have a lot of options.”
US Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Michigan, said in an interview Thursday that if Trump “chooses an option that involves a significant military strike on Iran that, given the current climate between the US and Iran, there is a possibility that it could escalate into a medium to large-scale war, I believe the president should come to Congress.”
Slotkin, a former top Middle East policy adviser for the Pentagon, said she hopes Trump considers a broad range of options, including the most basic choice, which would be to place more forces and defensive military equipment in and around Saudi Arabia to help increase security.
A forensic team from US Central Command is pouring over evidence from cruise missile and drone debris, but the Pentagon said the assessment is not finished. Officials are trying to determine if they can get navigational information from the debris that could provide hard evidence that the strikes came from Iran.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday that the US has a high level of confidence that officials will be able to accurately determine exactly who launched the attacks last weekend.
US officials were unwilling to predict what kind of response Trump will choose. In June, after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone, Trump initially endorsed a retaliatory military strike then abruptly called it off because he said it would have killed dozens of Iranians. The decision underscores the president’s long-held reluctance to embroil the country in another war in the Middle East.
Instead, Trump opted to have US military cyber forces carry out a strike against military computer systems used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to control rocket and missile launchers, according to US officials.