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NAPLES, Italy — An F-16 fighter jet taking part in NATO operations over Libya ran off the runway Wednesday morning at U.S. Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily.

The pilot ejected safely before the aircraft rolled off the runway’s end at about 11:35 a.m., according to a NATO press release. The pilot is fine, a NATO spokesperson said.

The NATO official refused to divulge the pilot or jet’s nationality, but the Agence France-Presse news agency reported that the jet and pilot were from the United Arab Emirates.

NATO officials told Stars and Stripes that the jet and pilot were not from a NATO state but were supporting Operation Unified Protector, the mission over Libya that involves enforcing a no-fly zone.

The F-16 was moving from an airfield in Greece to Sigonella when the incident occurred, according to the NATO official.

The pilot landed the aircraft on the runway, but the jet was still moving too fast as it approached a threshold at the flight line’s end when he decided to eject, the NATO official said.

“He decided to eject before going on the grass,” the NATO spokesman said.

Both Sigonella runways were closed as of Wednesday afternoon while they were inspected, but both were expected to be opened later in the day, according to the NATO spokesman.

“In a few minutes or a few hours, I don’t know,” he said.

The jet was reportedly based at Decimomannu base in Sardinia and was part of a deployment of 12 UAE fighter jets, including six F-16s and six Mirages supporting the NATO mission, AFP reported.

Italian authorities cordoned off the area and the carabinieri police force is leading an investigation, according to NATO.

geoffz@estripes.osd.mil

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