Two Eritrean Air force Captains, Yonas Woldeab and Mekonnen Debesai, have today asked political asylum in Saudi Arabia, after fleeing their base in the IAI 1125 VIP passenger. The two pilots flew the plane that belongs to the Force this morning and there is no immediate reaction regarding their flee by the government so far. Yonas was head and trainer of the Civil department of the air force, according to assenna.com sources in Asmara.
Captain Yonas and Captain Mekonnen were head and deputy. The fact that both were able to build trust among them and agree to take the decision to flee the country with one of the air force’s rare VIP aircraft shows that the dictatorial regime is loathed not only by the majority ordinary Eritreans, but by the ‘trusted’ senior officers as well.
The same sources indicate that the two pilots were one of the few and among the last left in the Force who had been well trained and highly trusted in the two-decade old force. They were one of few distinguished pilots who were sent by the Government to several training programs including one in Florida. They had been assigned in flying President Issias Afwerki and high ranking army and party officials both domestically and in the region in all official and secret missions. At the same time, they had been among the few Eritrean Air Force pilots who were frequently assigned to the highly regarded gold mining site in Bisha.
The sources also acknowledge that they have been discontent following the deaths of their two pilot colleagues who were killed after the plane they were flying crashed in Eritrea, last year. They blame the government for the deaths that administrative negligence and lack of routine maintenance was the main cause for the loss.
In the past few years, several Eritrean air force pilots and personnel have defected weakening the young air force further.