Fighter Jets Open Fire on Protesters in Libya
Two pilots land in Malta, choosing to defect rather than bomb protesters
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2011 12:41 PM CST
In this footage taken from amateur video, people watch papers falling from a window as a police station burns, in Tobruk, Libya, Monday Feb. 21, 2011.   (AP Photo/Amateur Video Accessed via YouTube)

(Newser) – Libya made good on its threats to get bloody today, sending fighter jets to fire on protesters in Tripoli, Al Jazeera reports, though it cautions that reports are difficult to verify because Libyan intelligence has shut down all landline and wireless communications. But two military pilots seem to confirm the story: They landed in Malta, declaring that they’d been ordered to bomb protesters, but had refused to do so and defected instead. Security forces on the ground are also reportedly using live ammunition, and witnesses told Al Jazeera that at least 61 have been killed today.

Despite the crackdown, protesters say they’re gaining momentum, and have captured several key towns, including Benghazi. The country’s justice minister has also reportedly resigned in protest over the deadly force being used against demonstrators, as have several ambassadors. Meanwhile, Britain’s foreign secretary said he had intelligence that Moammar Gadhafi himself had fled to Venezuela, but Venezuela denied the report.