The two Libyan military pilots who had defied orders to bomb civilian targets and defected to Malta last February returned to the island yesterday together with a team of technicians to inspect their two Mirage jet fighters.

They flew in aboard a Libyan military transport aircraft, an Antonov 26, to carry out inspections on the planes that will soon to be returned to Libya. It is not clear when the two Libyan Air Force Mirage F1s will be flown out as this all depends on the state of their engines after they were grounded for nearly a year, a government spokesman said.

The jets have been in Malta since February 21, when they landed unexpectedly after their pilots refused to attack fellow Libyans in Benghazi.

The pilots, who maintained a low profile during their stay in Malta, were granted protection until they were able to return to Tripoli, in September, when the Gaddafi regime was defeated.

Their fighters remained immobilised at the Malta airport.

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