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Air Corps planes remain in Malta as Libyan conflict continues

The two Air Corps planes deployed to assist with evacuations remain in Valletta as officials try to assemble a taskforce.

Libyan protesters at the US Embassy burnt copies of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's Green Book - the leader's 1975 political manifesto.
Libyan protesters at the US Embassy burnt copies of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's Green Book - the leader's 1975 political manifesto.
Image: Ian Marlow/Demotix

THE IRISH Air Corps planes deployed to Malta to assist with the evacuation of the Irish citizens in the troubled African state of Libya remains in Valletta this evening.

The CASA aircraft – which had left Baldonnell on Wednesday night, along with the government Learjet, to try and assist with the evacuation of any Irish people remained – had travelled to Tripoli yesterday hoping to collect Irish passengers at the country’s airport, but was forced to leave without any passengers.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed tonight that the craft would not be returning to Tripoli until a taskforce had been completed on the ground to ascertain how best to help the Irish leave the country.

The government’s second jet this evening travelled to Rome to collect the Irish ambassador to Italy, Patrick Hennessy, who will oversee the operation to evacuate any remaining Irish.

The Department said it understood there were 42 Irish citizens in the country – 26 who remained in Tripoli, 12 in the country’s second city of Benghazi, and six others elsewhere in the country.

The citizens in Benghazi were to be evacuated by sea later tonight, pending local conditions, while those elsewhere were travelling to the two main cities, or evacuating via the land border with Egypt.

A small number of Irish citizens had been able to leave the country on a Dutch-operated flight to an unnamed European city, while a number of Irish women had been able to leave after they encountered a German pilot offering to collect passengers and transport them to Austria.

Al-Qaeda blamed

The country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi has again addressed the public, and has blamed al Qaeda for manipulating the country’s young people to cause the current political upheaval in the country.

“No one above the age of 20 would actually take part in these events,” al-Jazeera quotes him as offering in a long and often rambling audio message relayed by telephone to the state broadcaster.

Al-Qaeda, he said, “were taking advantage of the young age of these people [to incite violence], because they are not legally liable.”

Gaddafi – the country’s de facto leader since 1971 – said the political environment was substantially different in Libya than it had been in other countries, like Tunisia or Egypt which have already seen their leaders overthrown.

The youth of Libya, unlike those in other countries, had no reason to complain about their circumstances, he said.

He added that he could not quit his role because he was merely a symbolic leader with no political power – likening himself to the Queen of England.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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