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Captain Ed Hollingsworth, Captain Niall Goff and Airwoman Ashley Stafford prepare for their flight from Baldonnel last night. Irish Defence Forces

Air Corps plane leaves Tripoli – but no Irish on board

An Irish Air Corps plane left Tripoli without any Irish passengers on board, a government spokesman confirmed.

ONE OF THE TWO Irish Air Corps planes deployed to Libya to assist with the evacuation of the Irish nationals in the country has left Tripoli – without having been able to take any Irish passengers on board.

The CASA Aircraft, the larger of two planes deployed by the military, landed at Tripoli International Airport at 4:50pm, the air corps confirmed in an earlier statement.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman told tonight, however, that the plane was on its way back to Valletta in Malta – and that none of the Irish citizens in Libya had been taken onto the plane.

“It was not possible to make contact with the aircraft while it was on the ground,” a spokesman said. As a result, “there were no passengers” on the flight when it was forced to leave Libya again and return to its temporary base in Malta.

Irish officials would have to wait until the plane had returned to Malta before they could receive a debriefing on exactly why no passengers were able to be collected.

The spokesman said, however, that the Air Corps would be making further attempts to evacuate the Irish citizens from the country once the feedback from that debriefing had been received.

Department of Foreign Affairs officials had been attempting to coordinating the evacuation effort on the ground.

The CASA, along with the government Learjet, had been deployed to Valletta where it was awaiting clearance from the Libyan authorities to land and assist with the evacuation of the Irish citizens there.

There were thought to be about 40 Irish citizens in Libya that the Air Corps was offering help in evacuating.

It is not known whether the Learjet – with a passenger capacity of eight – is still to be deployed to Tripoli to collect further Irish citizens.

In photos: Irish Defence Forces fly to Libya to evacuate Irish citizens >

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