May 27, 2017 / 10:22 AM / 3 years ago

Egypt launches second day of Libyan air strikes after attack on Christians

Mourners gather at the Sacred Family Church for the funeral of Coptic Christians who were killed on Friday in Minya, Egypt, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

CAIRO (Reuters) - 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.

Islamic State 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 al-Sisi said on Friday the air raids were targeting militant camps responsible for plotting the attack, and that Egypt would not hesitate to carry out additional strikes inside and outside the country.

Two military sources told Reuters that three additional air raids were launched on Saturday morning in the area of Derna, a city where east Libyan forces led by Khalifa Haftar, a close ally of Egypt, has been trying to gain control from Islamists and other opponents.

A resident in Derna told Reuters that warplanes were seen striking the Dahr Al-Hamar area in the southern part of the city on Saturday. Egypt’s military spokesman declined to comment on the new raids.

Derna has a history of Islamist militancy and is where Islamic State set up its first presence in Libya in 2014. However, the jihadist group was later chased from the city by local fighters and rival Islamists. The east Libyan air force said the strikes were targeting al-Qaeda linked forces.

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.

Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Additional reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Eric Knecht and Ayman al-Warfalli in BENGHAZI; Writing by Eric Knecht; editing by Gareth Jones

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