Mirage gets colours of liberated Libya
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Mirage gets colours of liberated Libya

The green roundel on the Libyan Air Force fighter jet was replaced by the colours of a free Libya in a “symbolic ceremony” at the Malta International Airshow yesterday.

It was met with cheers from the high-ranking military officers and crew, who stuck the independence flag over Muammar Gaddafi’s on one of the two Mirage F1 fighter jets whose pilots had heroically defected to Malta when instructed to attack their own countrymen.

“It is a proud day for us to be in Malta. We are proud of the two Libyan Air Force pilots, who refused to attack the Libyans from the start of the revolution,” National Transitional Council member Abdul Karim Bazama said.

The two pilots had flown to Malta in February, asked for political asylum and were supported by the government, he continued, expressing his “deep thanks” to the Maltese.

The defecting pilots, who returned to a hero’s welcome in Libya last week, were considered “one of the important voices” that told the international community Col. Gaddafi was using excessive force against the peaceful revolution, Mr Bazama said, highlighting the significance of yesterday’s event to his country.

Detailing the action in the initial days of the uprising, Brigadier General Mahanna Mohammed, deputy chief of operations of the Libyan Armed Forces, said that even though Col Gaddafi used the air force and its pilots to strike the Libyans and their own cities, most of them refused. They either ejected in the desert and were severely wounded, or deliberately missed their huge targets in Benghazi.

Libyan ambassador Saddun Suayeh felt the replacement of the sticker was a moment of “pride, joy and honour” and he hoped he would soon see the fighter jets returning to Libya, sporting the independence flag.

“I remember the night these planes arrived. It was horrendous. The pressures exerted on the Maltese government and me personally were beyond description. But thank God, we managed to keep the aircraft and the pilots here.”

During the ceremony, which attracted the attention of a crowd of visitors at the airshow, the Malta Aviation Society, which organises the event, was presented a shield to the “friends of the Maltese Republic” on behalf of a “free Libya”, thanking Malta for its support of the revolution.

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