Female Eritrean pilot goes to Saudi Arabia to recover jet stolen by defectors - and defects herself
Monday 22 April 2013
A military pilot sent by Eritrea to Saudi Arabia to reclaim a jet stolen by two fellow officers when they flew to seek asylum has herself defected.
The pilot, who holds the rank of captain, told authorities she did not wish to return to the country, a single-party state which has up to 10,000 political prisoners.
The jet has been in Saudi Arabia since October, when it was diverted to the kingdom by its two officers who wanted to seek asylum, the newspaper Arab News said.
"She came to the kingdom two weeks ago to retrieve the military plane," Ali Za'le, a spokesman for Jizan governorate, was quoted saying.
"When she reached Jizan, she expressed her wish to stay here ... her request is still being considered by the authorities," he added.
Diplomats at Eritrea's embassy in Riyadh were not immediately available to comment on the report.
Arab News said the pilot's father lived in Saudi Arabia.
Mass defections are common in Eritrea, considered one of the world's most reclusive states where dissent is dealt with harshly. Thousands of Eritreans flee the country each year, escaping unlimited conscription and poverty in the Red Sea state, aid agencies say.
Last year, 14 Eritrean footballers from the national soccer squad sought asylum in Uganda a year after 13 members of a club disappeared while participating in a regional tournament.
The UN refugee agency says more than 250,000 Eritrean refugees and nearly 15,000 asylum seekers live across the Horn of Africa.
Eritrea has a population of about 5.5 million. Earlier this year, dissident soldiers with tanks briefly took over the Information Ministry in Asmara, demanding all political prisoners be freed.
Calm soon returned to the capital but Eritrean opposition activists in neighbouring Ethiopia cite growing dissent within the army over economic hardships.
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
Ten best places to live in the UK: Hart in Hampshire takes top spot
'Untrue statements' anger over work to make H5N1 bird-flu virus MORE dangerous to humans
Paul Walker's daughter Meadow attends Justin Bieber Believe premiere
- 1 Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
- 5 Police seize possessions of rough sleepers in crackdown on homelessness
- < Previous
- Next >
£40000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits : Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer (WPF...
£45000 - £65000 per annum + London: Harrington Starr: Senior Automation QA Eng...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Year 6 Teacher - Gilli...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Teacher of English - S...