Washington: UAE warplanes secretly bombed extremist militia targets in Libya, apparently catching Washington off guard, as turmoil in the North African country deepened with the extremists naming a rival premier.
US officials said on Monday that the United Arab Emirates jets launched two attacks in seven days on the extremists in Tripoli using bases in Egypt.
An Emirati official told AFP only that his country had "no reaction" to the report, while Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri on Tuesday denied any "direct" role by his country.
The air strikes signalled a step towards direct action by regional Arab states that previously have fought proxy wars in Libya, Syria and Iraq in a struggle for power and influence.
The bombing raids were first reported by The New York Times, and extremist forces in Libya had also charged that Egypt and the UAE were behind them.
"The UAE carried out those strikes," one US official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Asked about the account, a senior US official said "the report is accurate".
No US involvement
The United States did not take part or provide any assistance in the bombing raids, said the two officials, who could not confirm that Egypt and the UAE had left Washington totally in the dark about
The first strikes, on Monday last week, focused on militia targets in Tripoli, including a small weapons depot, according to the Times.
A second round south of the city early Saturday targeted rocket launchers, military vehicles and a warehouse, it said.
Those strikes may have been a bid to prevent the capture of the airport, but the Islamist militia forces eventually prevailed anyway.