December 23rd, 2016
A domestic passenger plane in Libya has been hijacked and forced to land in Malta after a man threatened to blow up the plane with a hand grenade.
The Afriqiyah Airways flight 8U209, carrying 118 people including a baby, was travelling over Libya this morning from Sabha to Tripoli in Libya when it was diverted to the Mediterranean island.
A total of 111 passengers — 82 men, 28 women and an infant — and seven crew members are on board the aircraft which landed in Malta at 11.32 am. All passengers are believed to be Libyan.
A Libyan security official told Reuters that the pilot tried to land in Libya, but the hijackers didn’t let him.
According to Maltese government sources, the hijacker belongs to pro-Gaddafi group Al Fatah Al Gadida, who said that he would release all the passengers, but not the crew, if their yet-unannounced demands were accepted.
The office of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has confirmed that a negotiating team is on standby at Malta Airport. Reports say Mr Muscat has also spoken to his Libyan counterpart Faez Al Serraj.
According to the latest updates, 65 passengers have been released so far with the process being peaceful for the moment.