Libya Air Strikes: Pilots Defect after Ignoring Attack Order
Libyan Pilots Defect to Malta: Libyan Air Force Ordered to Attack Demonstrators
Tow Libyan air force pilots have flown their Mirage F1 jets to Malta, where they are seeking asylum after defecting. The pilots said that they were ordered to bomb anti-government demonstrators, and they had refused to follow that order. Unconfirmed reports are emerging that helicopter gunships have indeed fired on protesters.
The death toll in Tripoli has soared to 160 since the last reports emerged. Libyan Muslim leaders have issued a fatwa, saying that it is their followers' religious duty to oppose Muammar Gaddafi's rule and demand the release of imprisoned demonstrators.
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The defecting air force pilots are currently at Malta International Airport (MLA), where they are meeting with immigration agents as part of the asylum process.
The source, who insisted he not be identified further, said the jet pilots — both Libyan air force colonels — had communicated from the air that they wanted political asylum. They had left from a base near Tripoli and had flown low over Libyan airspace to avoid detection, the source said.