VALLETTA (Reuters) - A Libyan Arab Airlines aircraft was refused permission to land at Malta International Airport on Wednesday and turned back to Libya, airport sources said.
The aircraft, an ATR42 turbo-prop, flew to Malta without prior notice and when asked whether it had permission to land, the pilot gave details of a flight which was supposed to have landed in Malta on Tuesday, the sources said.
Landing permission was refused and, after circling for 20 minutes while trying to reverse the decision, the pilot decided to return to Libya.
The sources said it was not clear who was on the plane, but Al Jazeera reported from Malta that a civilian aircraft that was refused permission to land and flew back to Libya was believed to be carrying the daughter of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Gaddafi’s four-decade rule of oil-rich Libya has been shaken by violent protests which reached the capital Tripoli on Monday. Eastern Libya has been out of Gaddafi’s control for several days, according to local people.
Maltese soldiers were seen entering the airport as the aircraft approached.
Troops were still guarding two Libyan Air Force Mirage F1 fighters whose pilots defected to Malta on Monday, saying they had been ordered to bomb anti-government protesters in Libya’s second city Benghazi.
The pilots, both colonels, remained in custody. One of them has requested political asylum.