Protesters wrest control of more cities as unrest sweeps African nation despite Muammar Gaddafi’s threat of crackdown.
|Two Libyan air force pilots had earlier landed their fighter jets in Malta, saying they refused to fire on Libyans [AFP]|
Aisha Gaddafi, the daughter of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has appeared on state television, denying a report she tried to flee to Malta.
There had been reports on Wednesday that a Libyan plane carrying Gaddafi’s daughter had been turned back from Malta after it was denied permission to land.
Speaking late on Wednesday, Aisha Gaddafi, said: “I was surprised when my friends told me about this report.
“I would like to sayto the Libyan men and women who I love and love me, that know me well, that I am steadfastly here.
“In fact this demonstrates to the Libyan people the extent of lies and forgery these channels are resorting to in their reporting.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Cal Perry, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Malta, said: “The [crew] initially said they had 14 people on board. They were circling overhead saying they were running low on fuel.
“At that point the ambassador from Libya who was here in Malta was called in to take part in the negotiations on whether or not they were going to allow this plane to land.
“As he entered the talks it became clear from the pilots that Aisha Gaddhafi, Muammar Gaddhafi’s only daughter, was aboard the plane.
“The government said it was an unscheduled flight, it doesn’t matter who is on board; they said it cannot land and diverted the plane back to Libya.”
Maltese government sources said that they had no information that Gaddadfi’s daughter was on the plane or that the Libyan ambassador was involved in any negotiations.
Libya has been in turmoil since mass protests broke out against Gaddafi’s 42-year-old rule in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi more than a week ago.
The protests, which have spread to other cities despite the authorities cracking down on the protesters, is the biggest challenge that Gaddafi has faced during his long rule. The protesters now control much of the country and many senior officials have deserted Gaddafi.
Wednesday’s reports of the alleged attempted landing on Malta fueled speculation over whether family members of Gaddafi sought to flee.
The attempted landing came a day after a private Libyan jet carrying the Lebanese wife of one of Gaddafi’s sons was prevented from landing at Beirut airport in Lebanon, the Voice of Lebanon radio reported on Wednesday.
It said Hannibal Gaddafi’s wife and several members of the Libyan ruling family were aboard the jet that was denied permission to land at Rafik Hariri international airport on Tuesday.
Several Libyan regime figures could have been among the plane’s passengers, the radio station said.
Lebanon’s Safir daily said that the plane was due to take off from the Libyan capital before midnight but Lebanese authorities asked Libya to unveil the identity of the 10 people on board before allowing the jet to land.
When the Libyans ignored the Lebanese request, authorities in Beirut ordered airport officials to ask the pilot to divert the plane to a nearby country, either Syria or Cyprus.