EGYPT’S president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called for a UN resolution allowing international forces to intervene in Libya.
There was no other choice, he told French radio yesterday and added: “We will not allow them to cut off the heads of our children.”
Egyptian jets bombed Islamic State (IS) targets on Monday in response to a militant video of the apparent beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians. Rival militias have been battling for control in Libya since 2011.
The country has two rival governments, one based in Tripoli, the other in Tobruk.
Mr Sisi called for weapons to be made available to Libya’s internationally recognised government, which fled to Tobruk after rival militias seized power in the capital.
He said: “We abandoned the Libyan people as prisoners to extremist militias.”
Mr Sisi was referring to the aftermath of the 2011 war in which Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled with the help of an international coalition.
That intervention was “an unfinished mission”, he said. Asked if he would order Egypt’s air force to strike again, he said: “We need to do it again, all of us together.”
Egypt signed a €5.2 billion (£3.8bn) defence deal with France on Monday which includes the purchase of 24 advanced fighter jets.
Egyptian television said the airstrikes had targeted IS camps, training sites and weapon storage areas near the city of Derna.
Military sources said the strikes would continue but there was no need for ground troops at present.
The attacks came hours after a video emerged on Sunday showing militants forcing a group of men to the ground and decapitating them.
The kidnapped Egyptian workers, all Coptic Christians, were seized in separate incidents in December and January from the coastal town of Sirte in eastern Libya.
Egyptian air strikes killed 64 IS fighters, including three of the leadership, in the coastal cities of Derna and Sirte, the Libyan army said. Reports reaching Tunis said at least 35 more Egyptians had been rounded up by IS in retaliation for the air raids.
Libya’s air force, under the command of the internationally recognised government in Tobruk, announced it had also launched strikes in Derna.
A spokesman for Egypt’s foreign ministry said hundreds of thousands of Egyptians remained in Libya and Cairo was encouraging them to leave.
He said it was time for the international effort against IS – which has focused on Iraq and Syria – to branch out elsewhere.
“Just as there is movement against Daesh in Syria and Iraq, we want the world to turn its attention to Libya,” the spokesman added, using the Arabic acronym for group.