A Libyan plane with 118 people on board has landed in Malta in what the island’s prime minister called a “potential hijack situation”.
The Airbus A320 was on an internal flight for Afriqiyah Airways when it was diverted on Friday morning and according to Malta airport, two hijackers appear to be on board the plane on the runway.
Update 7: PM addresses press, President pleased that “all went well”
The PM gave some details at a pres briefing, among others:
1. The two hijackers had a hand grenade and a pistol. That they were ‘probably of Libyan nationality.’
2. Crew and passengers are being questioned to verify events
3. The armed forces of Malta are conducting a search on the plane
4. A condition to negotiate with them was a safe release of all passengers.
“So far no, there have been no requests for political asylum so far. The commander [of Maltese armed forces] has just confirmed to me that during his negotiations, [the] Maltese government’s position was crystal clear so no demands were made.
“So far, last couple of minutes, no such demand has been made, but I cannot exclude that being made in the next hours or so,” the PM said.
Update 6: Hijackers surrendered, searched and in custody
The Libyan government says there were two hijackers and that they were in the twenties.
They were seeking political asylum in Europe, they were handcuffed and taken off the plane.
One of them came out of the plane carrying the Libyan flag.
Hijackers surrendered, searched and taken in custody.— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) December 23, 2016
Update 5: Mayor of Libyan town confirms hijack
The BBC reports that the mayor of Sebha, the town where the plane was reportedly hijacked has confirmed the incident.
The plane left Tmenhant airport at 09:05 GMT heading for the capital Tripoli. “It was hijacked and investigations are continuing to establish how any explosives or weapons made it on board. The security at this airport is not good. It’s a military airport,” Col Hamed Al-Khayali is quoted to have said.
Update 4: 65 passengers released
65 passengers released so far.— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) December 23, 2016
Update 3: PM tweets that second batch of 25 passengers to be released
Release of second group of 25 passengers underway.— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) December 23, 2016
Update 2: 25 passengers released (only women and children) – Malta PM
The Prime Minister has tweeted that negotiations with the hijackers has led to the release of 25 hostages. Interestingly those released comprise of only women and children.
First 25 passengers released.— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) December 23, 2016
The hostage figures (passengers) according to the PM are as follows:
- Total of 111 passengers on board.
- 82 males
- 28 females
- 1 infant.
Update 1: Maltese Government in touch with Libyan authorities
Head of the Malta government communications, Kurt Farrugia, has confirmed that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has spoken to the Libyan counterpart, Feyez al Serraj.
He however did not indicate the details of their discussions.
Prime Minister— Kurt Farrugia (KurtFarrugia) December 23, 2016
JosephMuscat_JMjust spoke to Libyan Prime Minister Faez al Serraj.
Maltese media however say only one hijacker was aboard the plane, claiming to be in possession of a hand grenade.
The hijacker has reportedly claimed he is pro-Gaddafi and said he was willing to let passengers go apart from the crew if his demands were met. According to the Times of Malta, the plane’s engines were still running and it was surrounded by soldiers, but no one is yet believed to have approached the plane.
The aircraft had been flying from Sebha in southwest Libya to Tripoli for state-owned Afriqiyah Airways, when it was diverted to the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta , about 500 km north of the Libyan coast.
More to follow….Follow @Muisyo_