The State of Eritrea, a relatively young nation, gaining its independence in 1993, located in the Horn of Africa, is not a nation known for its human rights. In 2009 twelve members of the National Football Team defected in Kenya during the CECAFA Cup, being granted asylum by the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees, this past summer four of Eritrea’s Olympic Athletes, including the flag bearer, defected while in London … but these defections pale in comparison to the defection of Eritrean Air Force Officers this past Tuesday.
This past Tuesday two Eritrean Air Force pilots assigned to President Isaias Afewerki’s personal jet, who had been involved in the country’s secret missions to aid the Islamist al-Shabaab Militia , linked to Al-Qaeda, in Somalia, took off without authorization in the President’s an IAI Astra 1125.
The two Air Force pilots, identified as Captain Mekonnen Debesai and Captain Yonas Woldeab, flew at a low altitude across the Red Sea into Saudi Arabian airspace, where they were intercepted by two Royal Saudi Air Force Boeing F-15E fighter jets and escorted to the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Airport in Jizan, where they sought political asylum.
The Eritrean government is said to dispatching General Tekle Habteselassié, Commander of the Eritrean Air Force, to Riyadh in an effort to recover the President’s private jet.
… the unsung political kicker in all of this … the aircraft the two Captains defected to Saudi Arabia in, the IAI Astra 1125, is an Israeli manufactured business jet.