A Libyan plane reportedly carrying the daughter of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s leader, has been turned back from Malta after it was denied permission to land.
“The [crew] initially said they had 14 people on board. They were circling overhead saying they were running low on fuel,” Cal Perry, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Malta, said.
“At that point the ambassador from Libya who was here in Malta was called in to take part in the negotiations on whether or not they were going to allow this plane to land.
“As he entered the talks it became clear from the pilots that Aisha Gaddhafi, Muammar Gaddhafi’s only daughter, was aboard the plane. The government said it was an unscheduled flight, it doesn’t matter who is on board; they said it cannot land and diverted the plane back to Libya.”
Maltese government sources said however, that it had no information that she was on a plane which was refused permission to land or that the Libyan ambassador was involved in any negotiations.
Libya has been in turmoil since mass protests broke out against Gaddafi’s 42-year-old rule in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi more than a week ago.
The protests, which have spread to other cities despite the authorities cracking down on the protesters, is the biggest challenge that Gaddafi has faced during his long rule. The protesters now control much of the country and many senior officials have deserted Gaddafi.
Wednesday’s attempted landing on Malta is certain to fuel speculation over whether family members of Gaddafi are seeking to flee.
The attempted landing came a day after a private Libyan jet carrying the Lebanese wife of one of Gaddhafi’s sons was prevented from landing at Beirut airport in Lebanon, the Voice of Lebanon radio reported on Wednesday.
It said Hannibal Gadhafi’s wife and several members of the Libyan ruling family were aboard the jet that was denied permission to land at Rafik Hariri international airport on Tuesday.
Several Libyan regime figures could have been among the plane’s passengers, the radio station said.
Lebanon’s Safir daily said that the plane was due to take off from the Libyan capital before midnight but Lebanese authorities asked Libya to unveil the identity of the 10 people on board before allowing the jet to land.
When the Libyans ignored the Lebanese request, authorities in Beirut ordered airport officials to ask the pilot to divert the plane to a nearby country, either Syria or Cyprus.