February 17th Brigade claims to arrest Egyptian soldiers, government denies
Gunmen - YOUM7 (Archive)
By AYA SAMIR

CAIRO: February 17th Martyrs Brigades claimed in statements Sunday night that they have arrested a group of Egyptian pilots and soldiers in Libya with different kinds of arms.

Mohamed Essa, the official spokesperson for the brigades, told Al-Jazeera Mubasher Masr TV Channel in a phone call that he has confirmed information about the capturing Egyptian soldiers that entered Libya, as they are trying to find out the specific area they came from.

February 17th Martyrs Brigades is an Islamist militia established after the revolution of 2011 and is considered to be the largest armed militia in eastern Libya. It consists of at least 12 battalions estimated at between 1,500 and 3,500 fighters based in Garyounis, Benghazi.

Spokesperson for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Badr Abd Al-Atty denied in statements to The Cairo Post that this news could not be in any way true, assuring that the state didn’t interfere in its neighboring state’s affairs.

The ministry denied in a statement Sunday that that the Egyptian military has any intention of shelling militia sites in Tripoli, Libya.

President Abd al -Fatah al-Sisi told editors-in-chief from Egypt’s media outlets at the Ithadeya presidential palace that Egypt had not intervened militarily in the ongoing conflict in Libya, Youm7 reported.

Mohamed Fayz Gebreel, the Libyan ambassador to Cairo denied in statements reported by Sada Al-Balad Monday that Egypt interfered militarily in Libya.

“President al-Sisi himself explicitly denied this many times,” Gebreel said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry met with his Libyan counterpart Mohamed Abd Al-Aziz Monday morning before the ‘neighboring countries of Libya conference’, which was held in Cairo, according to a statement released by the ministry.

They discussed the escalating events inside Libya and the importance of supporting legitimacy inside the state.

Shoukry also met with his Tunisian counterpart Mongy Al-Hamdy, discussing the Libyan political situation and facilitation that Tunisia would be able to offer Egyptians stuck between Libya and Tunisia, in order for them to return to Egypt.

Shoukry stressed in his speech during the conference on the importance of how Arab countries deal with the Libyan situation, as no interference in its internal issues is acceptable, respecting the Libyan people’s will and choice.

He added that escalating events inside Libya are not affecting only the state itself, but extend to form a source of risk to neighboring states that would worry about the smuggling of drugs and weapons through borders, which may lead to any kind of intervention. “We need to work hard avoiding that,” he added.

 Shoukry called for a new initiative to collect all kinds of arms from Libyan militias inside the state without any kind of discrimination between them, “which demands the collaboration of all parties inside and outside the state.”

“This meeting is a strong message to everyone that our goals are obvious and clear, as we are fear the most for Libya’s interests,” Shoukry said, according to Sada Al-Balad Sunday.

Previously, after the escalation in Libya, doubts of Egyptian military intervention in Libya showed up, as former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa issued a shocking statement warning that Egypt might be forced to defend itself against the escalating situation in Libya.

“News of new sectarian fiefs in Libya is a negative development that puts the whole region’s stability at risk,” he said, calling for an open discussion in Egypt to raise the awareness of how Egypt is going to react and to build a public supporting base.

Anonymous sources at Cairo International Airport told Youm7 earlier this month, that at least a total of 13,935 Egyptians escaping the unrest were evacuated from Libya, as the government was “doing its best to ensure the rapid return of Egyptians from Libya” without having to pay flight ticket fees according to previous statements by Egyptian Prime Minster Ibrahim Mahlab.

Libya has been facing violent and unrest since a 2011 revolution, as the militias have been fighting to control vital areas including airports in Benghazi and Misrata.

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