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US seeks Libyan permission for drone attacks, says source - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A US Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle assigned to the California Air National Guard's 163rd Reconnaissance Wing flies near the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California in this January 7, 2012 handout photo. (Reuters/US Air Force)

A US Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle assigned to the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing flies near the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California in this January 7, 2012 handout photo. (Reuters/US Air Force)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—A high-ranking Libyan official has told to Asharq Al-Awsat that Libyan authorities have opposed “intense American pressure” to allow the US to use military drones in eastern Libya. The requests are based on US intelligence that organizations affiliated with Al-Qaeda are operating in the area.

“American authorities requested an agreement with us over operations to target extremists on Libyan territory,” said the official, who requested anonymity. “But until now, no decision has been made.”

Speaking from the Libyan capital during a telephone conversation with Asharq Al-Awsat, he added that “there are currently military and political communications between Tripoli and Washington to this end, but we have not given our consent until now. It is hard to arrive at a decision, especially as the Americans do not share their information and intelligence sources.”

The source added that a bilateral agreement that would allow the US to perform drone strikes in the eastern Libya would not be an easy one, because the Libyan people would not tolerate any government that approved such strikes, regardless of the context.

The former Libyan minister of defense Mohamed Al-Barghathi confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat before his resignation last month that his country would not grant permission for US drones to launch attacks against extremist bases within Libyan territory, adding that he believed this was the task of the Libyan security forces.

Local residents in the eastern city of Benghazi have witnessed unidentified aircraft flying at low altitude over the past few weeks. This has increased speculation that the United States is conducting surveillance of suspected extremist sites in the region.

US intelligence believes that those behind the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, which led to the death of four Americans including the ambassador Christopher Stevens, are located in this region, or receive logistical support from backers resident there.

Furthermore, in an attempt to reassure the armed militias in the capital, the ministry of defense announced that Libyan troops operating in and around Tripoli are affiliated with the government, which is working to protect and secure the capital throughout the current period.

The ministry also said in a statement published by a local news agency that over the Eid Al-Fitr holiday period, these forces are securing the capital city and its vital utilities.

The chief of staff of the Libyan army announced that military units were deployed in Tripoli and its suburbs as part of an emergency plan to secure the capital.

His office indicated that the plan had been commissioned by the head of the General National Congress, with orders from the minister of defense, the chief of staff, and in coordination with the ministry of the interior.

The statement clarified that the army’s director of operations and the military commander for the Tripoli area would supervise the implementation of this plan.

The report also highlighted that the forces that have been deployed in the capital are from various military commands, including the Tripoli region, the central region, the Nafusa area, and the western region.