Afghan Air Force Pilot Flies MIG-21 to Pakistani Base and Asks for Asylum
An Afghanistan air force pilot flew his MIG-21 jet fighter to a Pakistani air base Thursday and asked for asylum, officials said.
A brief government statement confirmed that the Soviet-built fighter of the Afghan air force landed at the Kohat air base, 100 miles west of Islamabad and about 40 miles from the border with Afghanistan. Government officials said the pilot requested asylum and his application was being considered.
They said the flier took off from the Kabul area for combat patrol over eastern Afghanistan, then changed course for Pakistan. The jet was under guard at Kohat and the pilot was being questioned, the officials said.
Afghanistan’s embassy in Islamabad declined comment.
First word of the defection came from a spokesman for Yunis Khalis, one of the Muslim guerrilla groups fighting Afghanistan’s Communist government and the estimated 115,000 Soviet troops supporting it.
He identified the pilot as Lt. Mohammed Daoud, based at the Bagram air base just outside Kabul, the Afghan capital.
Daoud had been in touch with guerrilla cells in Kabul and the defection was carefully planned, said the spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The airman wanted to join the Yunis Khalis, he added.
Insurgent groups have taken credit for past defections by Afghan military personnel, who are given asylum in Pakistan and join the rebels.
Other pilots and crews have brought Afghan aircraft to Pakistan. The last such defection was of two helicopter crews with their MI-24 gunships in July, 1985.
The Afghan armed forces have been plagued by desertion and dissension since the Communist coup of April, 1978, that overthrew the constitutional monarchy and the arrival of Soviet military forces in December, 1979.