Two Libyan air force pilots parachuted
from their fighter jet on Wednesday, letting the plane crash into an uninhabited area,
in defiance of orders to attack Benghazi, according to the Libyan
newspaper Quryna. CNN is reporting that
the pilots were on a mission to bomb oil fields southwest of Libya's second city.
Benghazi and most of eastern Libya are now controlled by groups that
oppose Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
There are two story lines
embedded in this latest development:
Prominent Defections: Qaddafi has
faced a string of military and government defections over the last several days, though the toll these have taken on the embattled leader is unclear.
On Monday, the pilots of two Libyan fighter jets decided
to land in Malta after they were ordered to attack protesters in
Benghazi, and Benghazi itself only fell to opposition leaders when an army
unit switched sides and helped locals defeat Qaddafi's
security forces. CNN also reports that Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi, the country's interior
minister, resigned after learning of civilian deaths in Benghazi. But Wired's Noah Shachtman notes
that even with all these defections, Qaddafi "still has enough cronies
and mercenaries to continue the attacks. Eyewitnesses in Tripoli tell
the Guardian that Navy warships are bombarding the city. Guns-for-hire
are roaming the streets at night."
Transformation of Quryna: Foreign journalists aren't allowed into Libya and the Libyan
government has disrupted Internet and phone communications, making it difficult to obtain information about the revolt. But Reuters
reports that Benghazi-based Quryna, which reported the news about the
two pilots who defected, has become Libya's "most reliable media
outlet." The newspaper had ties with Qaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam,
but appears to have undergone a transformation ever
since Qaddafi lost control of the city. As CNN explains, "Quryna itself
is a sign of the changes sweeping through Libya. When protests began
last week, it carried regime propaganda. But it later reported on the
protests and casualty figures."