Hijacked Libyan plane lands in Malta

hijacked-libyan-planeValletta (Malta), (IANS) A hijacked Libyan plane with around 120 people, including 111 passengers, on board landed in Malta on Friday, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

“Informed of potential hijack situation of a #Libya internal flight diverted to #Malta. Security and emergency operations standing by,” he said in a tweet.

The state-owned Afriqiyah Airways A320 plane was on an internal flight from Sebha to Tripoli in Libya. A total of 111 passengers and a crew of seven were on board.

According to the Times of Malta, at 12.13 p.m, the plane’s engines were still running and it was surrounded by soldiers at a distance.

The reports indicated that one hijacker was on board. He was claiming to be in possession of a hand grenade.

The hijacker, claiming to be pro-Gaddafi, said he was willing to let all passengers go apart from the crew, if his demands were met.

However, it was not known what his demands were.

Meanwhile Malta authorities have cancelled or diverted all flights until further notice.

Passengers waiting in the departure lounge near the gates were being moved towards the open area by the Schengen Passport area.

The last major hijack incident in Malta took place in November 23, 1985, when an EgyptAir Boeing 737 plane was diverted to the island nation.

A 24-hour ordeal ended in a bloody massacre with 62 people dead when Egyptian commandos stormed the plane. Only one of the three hijackers survived and was brought to justice.

Forty three years ago then Prime Minster Dom Mintoff managed to negotiate the release of 247 passengers and eight air hostesses on board a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, which was also hijacked over Iraq and flown to Malta.

The passengers and air hostesses were released in return for fuel. The plane had been hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. The plane later left Malta and the hijackers eventually surrendered.

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