Libyan Helicopter Lands, Three Crewmen Request Asylum
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ A Libyan helicopter landed in Egypt and its three crewmen requested political asylum Thursday, the official Cairo Television reported.
It was the third time since March that officers seeking asylum have flown Libyan military aircraft to Egypt.
Cairo television interrupted regular programming to report the defection. An announcer said the Soviet-made MI-8 helicopter landed at 4:45 p.m. at an Egyptian air base near the Libyan border.
The announcer said the pilot, Capt. Mohammed el-Fahdi, co-pilot Sayed Abdel-Kafi and technician Mohammed Sho’eb all asked permission to stay in Egypt as political refugees.
The announcement gave no further details.
Egypt and Libya, its neighbor to the west, fought a brief border war in 1977. Relations have been strained since former President Anwar Sadat refused in 1972 a bid by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to unite the two countries.
Their differences were exacerbated when Sadat made Egypt the first Arab country to sign a formal peace treaty withj Israel in 1979.
Two Libyan Air Force officers, Bashir Abdel-Rahman al-Shishini and 1st Lt. Col. Mustafa al-Gabo, flew to Egypt in a C-130 Hercules transport with three enlisted men on March 2. They requested and were granted asylum.
A second aircraft was flown to Egypt that same month, a CH-47C Chinook tactical transport helicopter with a three-man crew.
It landed on March 29, but only its commander, Lt. Col. Mustafa el-Taher Karaza, asked for asylum.
The Egyptians considered al-Shishini and Karaza particular prizes because of their rank, the second highest in the Libyan armed forces.
President Hosni Mubarak said in a magazine interview last month that Egypt had returned one of the aircraft to Libya but did not indicate which one.
He said the other aircraft would be held until Libya releases three Egyptians who Mubarak said had been falsely accused of being spies.