Libya air force jets in Malta, pilots seek asylum

Two Libyan air force jets landed in Malta on Monday and their pilots asked for political asylum amid a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters in Libya, a military source said.

The two Mirage jets landed at Malta International Airport shortly after two civilian helicopters landed carrying seven people who said they were French. A military source familiar with the situation said the passengers had left in such a hurry that only one had a passport.

The source, who insisted he not be identified further, said the jet pilots — both Libyan air force colonels — had communicated from the air that they wanted political asylum. They had left from a base near Tripoli and had flown low over Libyan airspace to avoid detection, the source said.

The aircraft remained at Malta's airport, away from the commercial area, while the pilots and helicopter passengers were being questioned by airport immigration officials, the source said.

After a week of protests, anti-government unrest spread Monday to the capital Tripoli with clashes in Tripoli's main square for the first time. European governments and oil and gas companies were evacuating their citizens.