News headlines

Gulf News 

Manama, May 12: Bahraini authorities and the US ambassador yesterday dismissed as "ridiculous" and "fictitious" claims that a Bahraini fighter pilot who crashed in 2003 is in US custody, possibly at Guantanamo Bay.

MPs on Tuesday charged that the United States had kidnapped Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Aziz Saleh Al Dossari during an F-16 training flight off the Bahraini coast in September 2003 and is holding him in a secret place, possibly at Guantanamo Bay along with three Bahraini detainees.

BDF condemned the claims as "lacking truth and credibility", stressing that "the crash of the plane and the fall of a national martyr should not be exploited for personal gains".

"The martyr pilot had no extremist tendencies or suspected links as testified by his honourable military record," BDF said.

The 42-year-old pilot's body was never found, and the MPs gave the Bahraini authorities one month to reopen the inquiry into the case and determine his whereabouts.

"The United States is a country that respects the king, Bahrain and BDF, so it will never detain a Bahraini pilot without following the relevant international legal procedures, particularly that there are bilateral agreements that regulate the process," a BDF statement said.

"The US forces, in fact, have actively participated in the search and rescue operations and provided all their resources."

US Ambassador William Monroe told Gulf News that "there is no iota of truth in the claims" of the MPs.

BDF said the plane's steering mechanism was found a month after the crash but the plane wreckage could not be located as it was at a depth of approximately 150ft and the area is notorious for strong currents.

Controversy around disappearance

The allegation surrounding the disappearance of the plane is not new.

One month after the accident, a media report, citing unnamed "diplomatic sources", claimed that the pilot had defected in his F-16 to Iran where he reportedly requested political asylum.

Bahrain denied the report as "baseless".


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