Libyan plane hijack drama at Malta airport ends, hijackers surrender: All we know so far

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Updated: December 23, 2016 8:24:09 PM

Libya's Afriqiyah Airways plane, which was hijacked today, landed at Malta airport, according to the Maltese media.

libya, malta, malta country, malta island, libya plane hijack, malta plane, afriqiah airways, libyam libiya, libia, libya newsPeople disembark from a hijacked Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta Airport, December 23, 2016. (REUTERS)

Libya’s Afriqiyah Airways plane, which was hijacked today, landed at Malta International Airport, according to the Maltese media. There were 111 passengers and reportedly two hijackers armed with grenades and the crew members on board. According to latest reports, all passengers including the hijackers and the crew members on board have been released from the plane. The hijackers surrendered and they were taken into custody after the surrender.

According to reports, the two hijackers were pro-Gaddafi supporters who had threatened to blow up the plane with a hand-held grenade they were carrying or keep the passengers hostage until their demands were met. The Maltese media also quoted sources as saying that one of the hijackers is Mousa Saha from southern Libya’s Sabha, which is home to a pro-Gaddafi tribe.

Officials told AP that the hijackers had diverted a Libyan plane carrying 118 people to the Mediterranean island of Malta and threatened to blow it up with hand grenades. Tense negotiations ensued and within a few hours all passengers including the crew members were allowed to leave the plane, the prime minister said.

“According to radar information the plane was going to Malta, then it flew back as far as Tripoli airspace, then it turned back towards Malta again,” Farouk al-Wifati, the head of the Afriqiyah Airways office in Tripoli’s Mitiga airport, where the flight was due to land, told AP. A security official at Mitiga told Reuters earlier that the pilot had tried to persuade the hijackers to land in Libya, but they had refused.

Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted that women and children were freed first. The aircraft was on an internal flight in Libya when it was diverted to Malta, 500 km (300 miles) north of the Libyan coast, after a hijacker told crew he had a hand-held grenade.

According to Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, all passengers including crew members have so far been released from the plane. In a series of tweets, Muscat said that all 111 passengers, 7 crew members were released, while the two hijackers were taken into custody. Earlier the PM had said tweeted that there were 111 passengers including 82 males, 28 females and one infant.

Malta Today quoted Turkish news agency Anadolu which reported the Libyan airline chief Abu Bakr Alfortan as saying that the hijackers had demanded asylum in Malta.

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