A video allegedly showing Egyptian soldiers fighting in Libya’s Derna has surfaced on social media, the Libyan Observer has reported.
The video shows what appears to be Egyptian soldiers desecrating corpses of fighters from the Derna Protection Force (DPF) under the wreckage of a building apparently hit by air strikes.
“This is one of the dogs,” a soldier says in an Egyptian dialect while pointing to one of the corpses.
“We will stay here to fight them,” another soldier says.
It remains unclear whether the soldiers are part of the Egyptian army or a group of mercenaries hired by Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar, alongside other rebels from Sudan and Chad. The Egyptian army has not officially confirmed their participation.
Derna has witnessed intensified clashes since the beginning of this month between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and armed militias known as the Derna Protection Force (DPF). Whilst casualty numbers have been difficult to verify, unconfirmed reports indicate that at least seven people have been killed, and over 30 people injured, including one woman who was reportedly hit repeatedly by indiscriminate shelling.
Last week, Haftar’s eastern Interim Government announced that Derna had been “liberated” and that all Libyan National Army operations had ceased in the area, but scores of women and children are also still believed to be trapped inside the old city, cut off from basic services, including food, water and urgent medical care
Haftar’s forces, associated with the eastern-based Interim Government in Benghazi, claimed to have captured Derna last June, after weeks of fighting which killed scores of civilians and displaced thousands. However, skirmishes with the local DPF have continued to take place, which Haftar has attempted to frame as counter-terrorism operations.
The controversial Libyan general has been backed by Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Whilst the UAE publicly supports UN resolutions, its backing of Haftar has been attributed to its desire to bolster the Libyan commander as an alternative to the Islamism forces in the region, thought to be backed by Qatar and Turkey.
This is not the first time Egypt’s military has participated directly in the Libyan conflict; in 2017, the Egyptian air force carried out air strikes on various locations in the east city of Derna, allegedly targeting Al-Qaeda militants.
However, Egypt is reported to have also led covert efforts to support Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, in the upcoming presidential elections in Libya slated for later this year. Saif Al-Islam is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, for his role in orchestrating the violent suppression of civilian demonstrations against his father’s regime.
Since the protests against the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the country has faced chronic instability and violence.
In 2014 Libya split between rival camps, with Haftar gradually emerging as the dominant figure in the east – aligned with a regional parliament and government – and opposing the internationally-recognised government in the western capital, Tripoli.