• 17:14
  • Thursday ,02 October 2014

Egypt offers military training to Libya, cites Islamic State threat

By Aswat Masriya

Copts and Poliltical Islam


Thursday ,02 October 2014

Egypt offers military training to Libya, cites Islamic State threat

Egypt has offered to train pro-government forces battling rival armed groups in Libya, stepping up efforts to eradicate what it says is a threat to its own stability from the anarchy engulfing its neighbor.

The offer was the latest sign of intervention by competing Arab powers in Libya - a haven for Islamist militants and close to becoming a failed state - while Western governments are preoccupied with Iraq and Syria.

Egypt is trying to reassert its regional authority on its own terms while also winning back the U.S. military aid suspended after Cairo cracked down on the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian military officials and representatives of pro-government Libyan forces have met several times over the past two months in Cairo and theMediterranean city of Marsa Matrouh, Egyptian security officials said.

An intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said "intelligence and training" assistance were on the table. The Egyptian government spokesman declined comment, but Ahmad Buzeyad Al-Missmari, spokesman of the Libyan General Chief of Staff, confirmedEgypt had offered training for troops.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called for decisive action against militants based in Libya, who Egypt says sneak across the border to help Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis jihadists attack Egyptian security forces in its Sinai desert near Israel.

"Egypt has more intelligence on where they (the Libyan-based militants) are, how many there are, what kinds of weapons they had available," the intelligence official said.

Egyptian security officials have said Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis -- the country's most dangerous militant group -- has contacts with al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State, now targeted by U.S.-led air strikes in Iraq andSyria after it swept through Iraq, executing those who did not declare allegiance.

Sisi, who has publicly backed but not joined the air strikes, said last month any global coalition against Islamic State should tackle an array of extremist groups, making clear his main concern lay closer to home.

Islamists in Libya with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood were hit by air strikes last month that U.S. officials said were staged by Egypt and United Arab Emirates.

The UAE has not formally responded to the allegations and Egyptpublicly denied involvement in the bombings, which came against a background of U.S. concern some countries may see the war against Islamic State as a green light for other attacks.

With the influence of the Islamic State spreading among the North Africa-based Islamist militant groups which send jihadi fighters to Syriaand Iraq, Libya's western neighbor Algeria also plans to train Libyan forces.

But deeper involvement by Egypt, to its east, brings in one of the biggest armies in the Middle East, seeking to patch up a reputation damaged by its overthrow last year of elected Islamst presidentMohamed Mursi after mass protests against him.

In April, Washington restored some of the annual $1.3 billion military aid to Egypt it froze after the military takeover but analysts said human rights concerns meant relations remained cool.