Libyan Air Force pilots defect; rift between Gaddafi and military growing

 
on February 21 2011 4:35 PM
A Libyan protester shouts slogans against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during a demonstration outside the Libyan Embassy in Cairo
A Libyan protester shouts slogans against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during a demonstration outside the Libyan Embassy in Cairo Reuters

Two Libyan Air Force pilots have defected to the Mediterranean island of Malta, reported Reuters, citing Maltese government officials.

These soldiers said they were ordered by the government to bomb protestors; however, they decided not to and defect to Malta instead.

Currently, these two pilots are in Maltese police custody and are being held for further questioning.

This development is further evidence of the growing rift between Libyan ruler Moammar Gaddafi and some members of the Libyan military. Earlier, there were reports that the army’s Thunderbolt squad had defected, according to Reuters, citing a Libyan surgeon.

In the uprising in North Africa, which side the military chooses has been key. In Tunisia, the refusal of the army to fire on protestors was the nail on the coffin for former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Similarly, the Egyptian army’s refusal to fire on Egyptian protesters spelled the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

So far, the Libyan government, either through security forces or the military, has been much more heavy-handed than the governments of Egypt and Tunisia; shots have already been fired on the masses of protesters.

Nevertheless, if more members of the military defect or simply refuse to fire on protestors anymore, Gaddafi’s days as the ruler of Libya may be numbered.

 

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