The United States warned against “outside interference” in Libya on Monday amid reports that airstrikes against armed Islamists allegedly carried out by Egypt with help from the United Arab Emirates caught Washington by “surprise.” Unidentified fighter jets attacked targets in Libya over the weekend and on Aug. 18, residents and witnesses said, as the country was torn apart by the worst fighting since the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Reuters and The New York Times reported that U.S. officials believe the airstrikes were carried out from Egyptian bases using UAE warplanes. NBC News could not independently verify the reports.
When asked about the New York Times report, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “I’d certainly refer you to the governments of Libya, Egypt, and the UAE.” She added: “We believe outside interference in Libya exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition.” Libya's ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, was skeptical about Egypt and UAE involvement, telling Reuters: "I don’t believe it.” Libya’s chaos deepened Tuesday when the parliament that was replaced in an election in June reconvened and chose an Islamist-backed deputy as its new prime minister, leaving the country with two rival leaders and assemblies, each backed by armed factions.
- Alastair Jamieson