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By Godfrey Olukya   8-10-2012

Two Eritrean armed forces captains have reportedly fled the country with the only presidential jet owned by the state.

The two military officers are said to have been very close to Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki. Afewerki has been in power since 1993 and  over time has turned into a dictator.

‘They have been so close to him to the extent that they have been involved in carrying out some of his his secret missions.’ said one of the Eritrean army defectors now living in Kenya who asked for not disclosing his name.’ He used to send them to Somalia to take arms to Al-Shabaab militants’, he added.

The U.S. has in the last few years been accusing Eritrea for supporting militants in Somalia. The Eritrean  government has always been denying the allegations.

Although the officers fled with the plane last Tuesday, it took three days for Eritrean community to learn about the incident. They learnt it  from a Saudi newspaper.

According to the newspaper, the air force captains flew the aircraft at low altitude across the Red Sea towards Saudi airspace, and were met by two Saudi F-15 fighter jets before landing at a regional airport in south western city Jizan.
 
The two have been identified as Yonas Woldeab and Mekonnen Debesai.They have allegedly sought for political asylum from Saudi authorities.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that the Eritrean government has sent a senior army officer to Saudi Arabia to negotiate for the return of the jet.

That has not been the first time for Eritreans to defect. In August this year, the athlete selected to carry Eritrea’s flag during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games sought asylum along with three others. In 2011, thirteen players from the country’s national soccer team defected while at a tournament in Tanzania.

Eritrea is one of the countries  criticized by international human rights organizations for grossly abusing  human rights.

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