Libya (CNN) — Even as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi called on the military to crack down on anti-government protesters, reports came in Wednesday that a military aircraft had crashed because the crew refused to carry out bombing orders.
An opposition figure told CNN the pilot had been ordered to bomb oil fields southwest of Benghazi but refused and instead ejected from the plane.
The Libyan newspaper Quryna reported that two people were on board, and that both — the pilot and co-pilot — parachuted out, allowing the plane to crash into an uninhabited area west of Ajdabiya, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Benghazi. The newspaper cited military sources.
Quryna itself is a sign of the changes sweeping through Libya. When protests began last week, it carried regime propaganda. But it later reported on the protests and casualty figures.
CNN could not confirm reports for many areas in Libya. The Libyan government maintains tight control on communications and has not responded to repeated requests from CNN for access to the country. CNN has interviewed numerous witnesses by phone.
A Libyan Arab Airlines plane was denied permission to land in Malta on Wednesday, Maltese government sources said. Permission was denied for “clearance reasons,” because officials did not know who was on board, the sources said.
Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Wednesday that the death toll in Libya may be as high as 1,000, a representative for the Italian Foreign Ministry said.
The head of the largest trauma hospital in Benghazi told CNN on Wednesday that 202 people have been confirmed dead in the city since protests began last week. The opposition now controls Benghazi, as it does much of eastern Libya.
On Wednesday, the ninth day of protests, Gadhafi faced more defections from within his regime and new international pressure to halt military actions against demonstrators.
Mystery surrounded the whereabouts of one prominent defector. Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi, the country’s interior minister, told CNN Wednesday that he had resigned two days earlier after hearing that 300 unarmed civilians had been killed in Benghazi. He accused Gadhafi of planning to attack civilians on a wide scale and predicted that protesters will achieve victory in “days or hours.”
Hours after al Abidi said he resigned, the Libyan government announced Wednesday that he was kidnapped. State media reported that “gangs” had abducted him in Benghazi. Witnesses told CNN they saw al Abidi on Sunday and Monday in Benghazi, where he was siding with the protesters.
The United States is considering a range of tools to pressure Libya to end the violence and respect the rights of its people, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wednesday. “That certainly includes sanctions that could be imposed either bilaterally or multilaterally,” Crowley said.
Peru and Botswana both announced they were breaking diplomatic ties with Libya. Peruvian President Alan Garcia said his country suspended diplomatic relations after condemning “the repression unleashed by Gadhafi.”
Botswana’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement, “In light of the massive and disproportionate force visited upon peaceful protesters by the Libyan security forces, the government of Botswana summoned the Libyan Representative in Gaborone and expressed its revulsion at the Libyan government’s response to peaceful protesters and called for restraint in dealing with the situation.”
The statement added that Botswana was joining “the international community which is calling for action to be taken against those persons who have committed crimes against humanity in the continuing conflict in Libya and hopes that such persons shall be referred to the International Criminal Court to account for their deeds.”