Senior Libyan Pilots Defect to Malta After Orders to Attack Protesters

F1 Mirage Warplanes Arrive at Maltese Airport

Amid widespread reports earlier this morning that Libyan warplanes have been attacking protesters across the nation, two “senior colonels” in the Libyan Air Force have defected to Malta, landing at a Maltese airport with their F1 Mirage warplanes earlier today.

The pilots say that they had been ordered to bomb the protesters in Benghazi and saw fellow pilots go on a bombing run before reversing course and requesting asylum in Malta. They flew low over Libyan airspace to avoid detection by anti-aircraft arsenals before leaving the country.

The pilots are the highest profile defections from the Gadhafi regime’s military, but far from the only ones, as thousands of defections have been reported in the eastern half of the nation, where mercenary attacks on protesters riled local military leaders into expelling the pro-govt forces.

The use of air power against civilian protesters is perhaps the clearest sign yet of how desperate the Gadhafi regime is becoming, with its control over the nation outside of Tripoli virtually non-existant, and violence in Tripoli soaring.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.