Libya wanted fighter planes in exchange for heli crew

14th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Libya wanted to exchange the helicopter crew captured during an illegal operation to pick up evacuees on Libyan soil for two fighter planes.

The two Libyan planes landed on Malta when the pilots deserted according to CNN reports based on sources within the Maltese authorities.     Last week Tripoli sent a diplomat to Malta to negotiate the exchange with Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. "During the meeting, the two discussed whether the two Mirages could be given back in exchange for the Dutch prisoners," spokesperson Melvyn Mangion of the Maltese Foreign Ministry told US news station CNN.     Prime Minister Gonzi told local media that he rejected the idea and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the three Dutch soldiers. Eventually the Libyans agreed to the release of the Dutch soldiers without getting the Mirages back.     The Libyan pilots flew to Malta on 21 February. They say they deserted after they refused to bomb Libyan demonstrators. The pilots have now applied for political asylum in Malta.

Last month, Libyans began a revolt, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is trying to crush the uprising using military force against his own people.     The Dutch helicopter crew, which comprised of two men and one woman, were captured on 27 February near Syrte by troops loyal to Gaddafi when they tried to evacuate two civilians a Dutchman and a Swede. The Lynx helicopter they were flying in was based on HNLMS Tromp. The three were released last week and returned to the Netherlands on Saturday. The helicopter was left behind.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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