Libyan MiG Crash-Lands At Greek Airport, Pilot Asks for Asylum
ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ A Libyan MiG-23 jet fighter crash-landed Wednesday at a military airfield on Crete, and its pilot asked for political asylum, the air force said.
Air force spokesman Col. Pavlos Sissas said the pilot suffered chest injuries when his plane overshot the runway at Malleme airport in western Crete, crashed in a field and caught fire. He managed to crawl out of the cockpit before the plane was engulfed in flames.
The jet’s pilot, a Libyan air force captain, identified himself as 28-year- old Jamal Salah Al-Kabui, 28.
″He told us he wanted political asylum as he was being airlifted by helicopter to the naval hospital,″ Sissas said.
Sissas said that although the Yugoslav-trained pilot spoke broken Greek, there was still some confusion over his identity.
″He has two passports and one has a different name in it,″ he said.
Malleme is a World War II-era airfield 200 miles north of Libya and is used today mainly by crop-dusting aircraft. It is near a NATO bombing range and the Souda Bay naval station, also used as a resupply base by the United States Navy.
Another Libyan pilot landed a MiG-23 at Malleme and asked for asylum in 1981. Greece returned the plane to Libya and turned the defector over to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. That pilot eventually left for a destination that was kept secret at his request.
Greek air force A-7 Corsair jets picked up the jet as it entered Greek airspace south of Crete Wednesday.
″The interceptors identified the jet, noted it was not armed and tried to tell the pilot to exit Greek airspace. He just kept going,″ Sissas said.
He said the pilot flew towards Malleme, escorted by the Greek jets, and attempted a landing although ″he could obviously see the runway was too short.″
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi maintains almost total control over his Socialist government. But he has been under pressure since the United Nations clamped an economic embargo on Libya to force it to surrender terrorist suspects for trial.