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Libyan jet's roundels changed in poignant ceremony

A Libyan Air Force Mirage F1 fighter jet had its all-green roundel replaced by the new Libyan colours this morning amid applause at Malta International Airport, where the jet is on static display as part of the Malta Airshow.

The poignant ceremony was carried out by Libyan Air Force Brigadier General Mohammed Rajab amid applause, victory signs and chants of Allah Hu Akbar. The Libyan ambassador was also present.

The Mirage was one of a pair which were flown to Malta in February when their pilots refused Gaddafi government orders to bomb civilians near Benghazi. The pilots returned to Libya last week and received a heroes' welcome.

The jets cannot be returned to Libya yet, because of UN sanctions.

Brig Rajab came to Malta on an  Air Libya BAe 146 which at the height of the Libyan uprising was used in 32 covert flights, landing on roads in the middle of the desert to supply arms and ammunition to the rebels and then fly out with injured fighters.

The highly-dangerous operations were carried out despite a UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya.

"We did these flights without even thinking of the dangers," said Capt Ali Samoussi, who piloted the aircraft. He said that his son was co-pilot on some of the flights but he told his wife "It's either us or Gaddafi".

Capt Samoussi and other Libyan officers repeatedly thanked Malta for its support to Libya.

A plaque was presented to the Malta Aviation Society, which organises the airshow.

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