After yesterday’s incident involving the two Libyan Air Force defectors who landed their Mirage fighter jets in Malta, Italy placed its air bases on high alert, specifically the bases at Trapani and Gioia del Colle (Bari). Italy has also deployed several naval vessels, including an electronic warfare ship, towards Libya. Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa characterised the events as routine, saying there was no specific alarm, but measures needed to be taken to prepare for a possible fall of Gaddafi.
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Two high-ranking Libyan fighter pilots landed their Mirage F1 fighter jets in Malta yesterday and sought asylum after reportedly refusing to attack civilian protesters in Libya. La Stampa reports that the Libyan pilots decided to land in Malta rather than Italy because they were fearful that the Italian government would repatriate them under the terms of the Italy-Libya migration agreement. (“La decisione di innalzare al massimo il livello di allerta è stata presa dai vertici militari italiani dopo l’atterraggio a Malta di due cacciabombardieri Mirage libici fuggiti da Bengasi: i piloti hanno raccontato di essersi rifiutati di bombardare i manifestanti che protestavano contro il regime. Ed inoltre, hanno aggiunto di non aver raggiunto l’Italia perchè, in base al trattato italo-libico, avrebbero potuto essere rimpatriati.”)
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