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Libya's Derna militia denies links to IS

Mujahideen Shura Council spokesman says their group's loyalty is to Libya 'first and foremost', denies link to Egypt's hostage deaths
A general view shows the eastern Libyan town of Derna on 15 March, 2011 (AFP)

The Mujahideen Shura Council, which is in de facto control of Libya's eastern Derna city, said that it has no links with the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

"Our loyalty is, first and foremost, to Libya," a spokesman for the group told the Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.

"We have no relation with the IS in Syria and Iraq nor are we connected to the alleged IS affiliate in Sirte city," he said.

The spokesman denied recent media reports that his group had sworn allegiance to the IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Iraq.

Sites said to belong to the IS in Derna were the target of airstrikes launched on Monday by the Egyptian Air Force, which came in response to the decapitation of 21 Egyptian Christians held hostage by IS-affiliated militants in Libya.

"We have nothing to do with the slain Egyptian hostages," the spokesman said of his group.

"I do not understand why [Egypt] targeted Derna when the abduction of the Egyptian hostages had taken place in the western region, hundreds of kilometres away from here."

He said that residents of Derna were "mourning the death of innocents" following the Egyptian airstrikes.

He went on to say that his group's fighters were prepared for any future scenario but he maintained that a ground intervention by Egypt would be unlikely, attributing his assumption to the "nature of the region and the magnitude of resistance" Egypt would face if it decided to stage a ground intervention.

Last month, the Egyptian government – citing security concerns – banned citizens from travelling to Libya.

A Libyan official had said that last November a group called the Shura Council of Islamic Youth in Derna declared its allegiance to al-Baghdadi.