Dublin: Air Corps Now In Malta On Way To Fly 40 Irish Home From Libya: UPDATED

23 Feb

The Air Corps is engaged in an operation to fly home approximately 40 Irish citizens from Libya today as protests against the country’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, continue.

 Air Corps - Now in Malta waiting to fly to Libya
 Air Corps – Now in Malta waiting to fly to Libya
The Air Corps is engaged in an operation to fly home approximately 40 Irish citizens from Libya today as protests against the country’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, continue.

The operation is one of many being taken by Governments around the world concerned for the safety of their citizens in Libya.

Nine Air Corps personnel left Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel last night in two aircraft.

They are now in the Maltese capital Valetta, where they are waiting for an opportunity to fly to Libya to pick up the group of Irish citizens.

The Defence Forces are liaising with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) regarding the operation.

The DFA has said there are no reports of any Irish deaths in Libya.

Reports from China say the Beijing government is to send a chartered passenger jet to Libya – as well as ships and fishing vessels from nearby waters – to help evacuate some of its citizens.

About 33,000 Chinese nationals live and work in Libya, mainly in the oil, rail and telecoms sectors.

Mr Gaddafi yesterday vowed a fight to the death to crush the uprising against his four-decade.

‘This is my country, my country,’ he said in a speech on national television yesterday. ‘I will fight to the last drop of my blood.’

Mr Gaddafi said he would ‘die a martyr in the land of my ancestors’ and urged his followers to demonstrate their support.

‘Capture the rats,’ he said of anti-regime demonstrators. ‘Go out of your homes and storm them.’

NEWS UPDATE:

Two Air Corps aircraft are on standby in Malta to airlift 40 Irish citizens trying to flee Libya.

The Casa aircraft and LearJet with nine crew members are in Valetta awaiting the green light from diplomats to fly into Tripoli.

The two planes and additional crew members flew into the Mediterranean island overnight.

The Defence Forces are liaising closely with Department of Foreign Affairs officials as they attempt to get clearance to land in the troubled north African state.

About 40 Irish nationals in Libya are seeking to leave as ruler Muammar Gadafy cracks down on protests over his 42-year autocratic regime.

The Casa aircraft, routinely used for fisheries patrols, can carry 21 people and the LearJet can hold eight.

“The LearJet was dispatched with a spare crew for the Casa if a window of opportunity arises,” a Defence Forces spokesman said. “We are liaising with the Department of Foreign Affairs and as soon as they give the green light through their channels we can move.”

Taoiseach Brian Cowen approved the immediate deployment of the two Air Corps planes last night.

A Government spokesman said: “The decision follows increasing concern in relation to their safety arising from the latest assessment of the deteriorating political situation in that country.”

Foreign Affairs officials have been liaising with European Union counterparts to establish options to assist citizens and help them leave the country safely.

The evacuation is being co-ordinated by Pat Hennessy, the Irish ambassador in Rome who is accredited to Libya.

The group includes at least six Irish workers in Libya’s second city Benghazi with Dublin-based firm Mercury Engineering.

Four women who hold Irish passports are long-term residents in the city and married to Libyan men.

More than 300 people have been killed in the past two nights of clashes on the streets of Libya, with Colonel Gadafy vowing to fight “to my last drop of blood”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised against all travel to Libya and warned Irish citizens who are already in the country to leave.

Anyone who has any concerns over family or friends in Libya can contact its Crisis Centre on 01 4180222. & www.dfa.ie

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