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Libyan fighter pilots fly to Malta in apparent defection

Darrin Zammit Lupi / Reuters

A Libyan Airforce pilot (4th right) walks next to his Mirage F1 fighter jet after landing at Malta International Airport outside Valletta on Feb. 21. Two Libyan Air Force fighter pilots defected on Monday and flew their jets to Malta where they told authorities they had been ordered to bomb protesters, Maltese government officials said. They said the two pilots, both colonels, took off from a base near Tripoli. One of them has requested political asylum.

Reuters reported that two Libyan fighter jets flown by Libyan air force colonels were granted permission to land in Malta after asking for political asylum. They had left from a base near Tripoli and had flown low over Libyan airspace to avoid detection. They arrived shortly after two civilian helicopters carrying seven people claiming to be French landed after a flight from Libya. Sources said the fighter pilots defected because they would not fire on the Tripoli protesters.

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