Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 flight in Malta ‘seized by hijacker’

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People disembark from a hijacked Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta Airport, December 23, 2016. Image Courtesy:-REUTERS/Darrin Zammit-Lupi

Two suspected hijackers diverted a Libyan commercial plane (Afriqiyah Airways airliner with 111 passengers) to Malta on Friday and have threatened to blow up the plane on the runway with hand grenades, a Maltese government spokesman and state media said on Friday. The Malta airport authority said all emergency and Security teams had been dispatched to the site of what it called an “unlawful interference” on the airport runway.

Maltese troops survey a hijacked Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta Airport. Picture Courtesy:-REUTERS/DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI
Maltese troops survey a hijacked Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta Airport.
                                                                                      Picture Courtesy:-REUTERS/DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted that there are 111 passengers on board, 28 females, 82 males and one infant but the airport officials said the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 flight from Tamhent airport with original destination Tripoli, had 118 people on board. Earlier today, Joseph Muscat said that he has been informed of a “potential hijack situation of a Libya internal flight diverted to Malta.”

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The aeroplane, Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 flight was scheduled to travel from Tamhent airport in south-west Libyan town of Sabha for the capital Tripoli at 10:10am. It was scheduled to arrive in Tripoli at 11:20am, but was instead to diverted to Malta International Airport at around 11:32 am (04.02 IST).

Maltese state television TVM said the two hijackers on board had hand grenades and had threatened to detonate them, the hijackers, claiming to be pro-Gaddafi group of Al Fatah Al Gadida, said they were willing to let all passengers go apart from the plane crew members, if their demands were met.

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According to Turkish news agency Anadolu, the director of the Libyan airline Abu Bakr Alfortah said that the hijackers have demanded political asylum in Malta. The all 111 passengers, including men and women, have now been released from the plane, according to the Maltese Prime Minister and he has confirmed that crew members are now being released through Twitter.