All passengers and crew on board an Afriqiyah Airways flight which has been hijacked from Libya and diverted to Malta where it landed earlier today, have been freed. The hijackers have surrendered, Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted this evening.
The two hijackers, after releasing the passengers, were holding some crew hostage, and were negotiating for asylum in Malta. They had earlier threatened to blow up the Airbus A320 with grenades.
The hijackers had reportedly told authorities that they are supporters of former Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.
Maltese media reported that the hijacked plane had been on a domestic Libyan flight operated by Afriqiyah Airways. The aircraft had been flying from Sebha in southwest Libya to Tripoli and had 111 passengers, including an infant, and seven crew.
“The pilot reported to the control tower in Tripoli that they were being hijacked, then they lost communication with him,” a senior security official at the airport said.
The Malta airport authority said all emergency teams had been dispatched to the site of what it called an “unlawful interference” on the airport tarmac. The plane’s engines were still running.
Malta International Airport tweeted: “MIA confirms there is an unlawful interference at the airport. Emergency teams dispatched”.
Flights from Brussels, London and Paris had been due to land at the airport on Friday.
Libya has been in a state of chaos since the Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011 which left warring militias battling for control of different parts of the country.
Forces loyal to a fledgling national unity government recently took control of the coastal city of Sirte, which had been a bastion for the ISIS since June 2015.
Western powers have pinned their hopes of containing jihadism in the energy-rich North African state on the government but it has failed to establish its authority over all of the country.
A rival authority rules the country’s far east, backed by the forces under military strongman Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who have been battling terrorists in second city Benghazi.