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Eritrean plane forced to land in Saudi Arabia

Published: Updated:

Saudi fighter jets on Tuesday intercepted an Eritrean plane and forced it to land in King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Airport in Jazan, said Yassine al-Qassem, deputy media spokesman in the province of Jazan.

It was not clear whether the plane was civilian or military, but Qassem said it was carrying three passengers who were seeking asylum and that this was granted to them through a speedy procedure.

This was not the first time Eritreans flee to Saudi Arabia. In April, a military pilot sent by Eretria to reclaim a fighter jet that was previously stolen by two officers and landed with it in Saudi Arabia had herself defected.

Eretria has one of the most authoritarian regimes in Africa. Human Rights Watch says “torture, arbitrary detention, and severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and religious freedom remain routine in Eritrea.”

President Isaias Afworki has ruled the country, of about six millions, since 1993 and his party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), is the sole legal political party in the country.