Libya: fighter planes for helicopter crew

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

According to CNN reports based on sources within the Maltese authorities, the two Libyan planes landed on Malta when the pilots deserted.     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.

No Mirage 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 refusing 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.

Helicopter left behind The Dutch helicopter crew, which was comprised of two men and one woman, were captured on 27 February near Syrte by troops loyal to Gaddafi. The crew were tying to evacuate two civilians a Dutchman and a Swede.

The Lynx helicopter they were flying in was based on the HNLMS Tromp. The three were released last week and returned to the Netherlands on Saturday. The helicopter was left behind.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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