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Chief of Staff of Egyptian Army Visits Benghazi, Meets Haftar | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Khalifa Haftar attends a news conference at a sports club in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi. May 17, 2014. Reuters

Cairo- Chief of Staff of Egyptian Armed Forces Lieutenant-General Mahmoud Hijazi arrived on Wednesday in the eastern Libyan port city of Benghazi, on the first official visit by a senior Egyptian military official to Libya since the fall of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Hijazi’s visit came a day after a military ceremony was held on the occasion of the third anniversary of the launch of “Operation Dignity” to free Benghazi from the grip of extremists.

Heading a high-level military delegation, Hijazi was received at Benina International Airport that officially opened after three years of closure due to military operations against terrorists in Benghazi.

Hijazi met with Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA), at the latter’s office in Benghazi’s Rajma district.

No official statement was issued from Egypt with regard to the visit, but the Libyan news agency loyal to the authorities in eastern Libya said that the Egyptian delegation included head of Military Intelligence Major General Mohamed el-Shahat.

It said the delegation had made the visit on “the third anniversary of the “Operation Dignity” revolution that was launched to liberate the country from extremist terrorist groups.”

In a speech delivered as parachutists with Libyan flags attached to their feet descended in front of him, Haftar presented the LNA as fighting against the odds to prevail.

“They imposed an arms embargo on us and supported terrorists and cut off men’s heads and fired rockets and blocked oil exports – all of this to make us kneel. But we will never kneel except before Allah,” he said.

“We will not leave Tripoli as a hotbed of terrorists and the country will not rest until Tripoli returns to the homeland,” he said.

Notably, thousands of LNA troops paraded in Tocra, 65 km northeast of Benghazi, in front of Haftar, other LNA commanders and senior politicians from the eastern government and parliament. Tanks, Grad rocket launchers, helicopters and fighter jets were also displayed.