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Egypt Launches Airstrikes on ISIS Targets in Libya After Beheadings

Egypt Launches Retaliatory Airstrikes Against ISIS in Libya 2:00

CAIRO, Egypt — Egypt said Monday it had carried out dawn airstrikes against ISIS targets in Libya in revenge for the videotaped beheading of a group of Coptic Christians.

The country’s Armed Forces General Command announced that its fighter jets targeted weapon stores and training camps “to avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers."

It was Egypt’s first confirmed foreign military intervention since the 1990 Gulf War.

"Let those far and near know that Egyptians have a shield that protects them," said a statement posted to Facebook. A video showed warplanes taking off from Egyptian bases.

The statement did not mention targets, but Libya's air force said it had carried out bombing raids in coordination with Cairo, striking targets in the eastern city of Derna which was overrun by ISIS-linked Islamists last year.

Two of the strikes on Derna were witnessed by Libyan lawmaker Mussa Mahmud.

Activists and witnesses in Derna told Libyan television that eight strikes had destroyed homes in the Sheeha neighborhood, killing civilians including three children and two women.

Hours later, Egyptian warplanes carried out a second wave of strikes in Derna, Egyptian security officials said.

A Libyan air force commander told the Alwasat news channel that Libya jets had also struck targets in Sirte and Ben Jawad and that more raids were planned.

However, Libya's Tripoli-based parliament said it was opposed to Egypt's role in the operation. "We strongly condemn the Egyptian aggression this morning on Derna and which we consider to be an assault against Libyan sovereignty," said Omar Homaydan, the spokesman for the General National Congress — the body representing the faction that took over the capital last year.

Egypt's foreign ministry later renewed its call for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq to confront militants in Libya.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has repeatedly said militants based in Libya pose a serious security threat to Egypt, a strategic U.S. ally that is fighting ISIS-linked insurgents in the Sinai.

The militants had rounded up the 21 Coptic Christian wrokers from the coastal city of Sirte in December and January.

Sisi dispatched his foreign minister, Sameh Shukri, to New York to hold consultations with U.N. officials and Security Council members ahead of a conference on terrorism opening Wednesday in Washington.

"What is happening in Libya is a threat to international peace and security," said Sisi in a television address late Sunday.

He visited the main Coptic Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo Monday to offer his condolences, state television reported.

U.S. defense and military officials told NBC News the U.S. did not provide targeting information to Egyptian warplanes since Egyptians have their own “ample intelligence” on ISIS camps “right next door."

At the same time, tensions remain between the U.S. and Egypt since the Obama administration considers Sisi’s rise to power a coup. U.S. officials describe the current military-to-military relationship with Egypt “functional” at best.

— Charlene Gubash, Alastair Jamieson and Jim Miklaszewski

Reuters contributed to this report