Three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, the new Libyan government is struggling to assert its authority over heavily armed militias throughout the country.
Despite the best efforts of the United Nations in attempting to initiate peace talks, various groups of hardliners are refusing to entertain the notion of negotiations.
Egyptian involvement in airstrikes on Libya
The government officials told The Associated Press, on the condition of anonymity, that Egyptian aircraft were being used to strike against positions of the Islamist militia in Benghazi. The eastern port city played a key role in the overthrow of Gaddafi and remains a pivotal piece of the Libyan puzzle.
The second largest city in Libya is the scene of a power struggle between an alliance of Islamist militia groups, known as Majlis al-Shura, and the army, which also has the support of forces loyal to former general Khalifa Haftar.
Tareq al-Jorushi, a Libyan lawmaker, has since confirmed that although Egyptian warplanes were being used in conjunction with Libyan ground troops, they were being flown by Libyan pilots.
Egypt vs Libya: The battle for Benghazi
According to reports, the camp of an army tank battalion was attacked by an Islamist group known as Ansar al-Sharia. The camp is known to be one of the last government strongholds in the city after army special forces were driven out of Benghazi a few months ago.
Haftar has promised to liberate Benghazi from the militants, and claimed that his troops had seized an Islamist camp: “The Majlis al-Shura forces are fleeing from the military confrontation,” a spokesman told Sky News Arabia, a UAE-based TV channel. “The Benghazi area is now safe.”
The statement was impossible to verify at the time, but all signs point to an extended struggle for control of the city, with the potential for greater involvement from Libya’s neighbors.