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UAE silent on charge it bombed Libya Islamists

26 August 2014, 13:02

Abu Dhabi - The United Arab Emirates had no comment Tuesday after US officials said warplanes from the Gulf state had secretly bombed Islamist militia targets in Libya flying from bases in Egypt.

Contacted by AFP, an Emirati official said only that his country has "no reaction" to such reports.

Two American officials said on Monday that the UAE had carried out air strikes against the Libya militias, from Egyptian bases.

In an editorial on Tuesday, daily newspaper Al-Khaleej, which has close ties to the authorities, wrote that Libya has become a "hotbed for terrorism... endangering not only itself but neighbouring and regional countries".

The daily urged "forming an Arab coalition... to take prompt and effective action based on a clear strategy to confront this epidemic, which takes different names like the Islamic State (IS), (Libyan jihadist group) Ansar al-Sharia, or the Muslim Brotherhood, which must be eradicated from their roots".

UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash had earlier this week criticised accusations of UAE involvement in the bombing raids, first reported by The New York Times and Islamist forces in Libya.

Gargash wrote on Twitter that attempts to implicate the UAE in Libyan affairs aimed to "escape from facing the results of (June) elections," in which a new parliament replaced the Islamist-dominated General National Congress transitional political body.

However, a US official told AFP on condition of anonymity on Monday that "the UAE carried out those strikes", confirming the New York Times report.

The United States itself did not take part or provide any assistance in the raids, two American officials said.

The first air strikes took place a week ago, focusing on targets in Tripoli held by the militias, including a small weapons depot, according to the Times. Six people were killed.

A second round of air strikes targeted rocket launchers, military vehicles and a warehouse south of the city early on Saturday, the newspaper said.

Those strikes may have been an attempt to prevent the capture of Tripoli airport, but the militia forces eventually prevailed anyway and seized it.

The UAE -- which has spent billions on US-manufactured warplanes and other advanced weaponry -- provided the military aircraft, aerial refueling planes and aviation crews to bomb Libya, while Cairo offered access to its air bases, the Times said.

Cairo has denied Islamist militias' allegations that it launched an air strike against them in Tripoli, but has so far not commented on accusations that its air bases were used.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates look upon Islamist militants in the region as a serious threat, and have forged closer cooperation against what they perceive to be a common danger.

Islamist groups that emerged after the Arab Spring uprisings have in turn enjoyed support from Qatar and Turkey.

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