LIBYAPROSPECT – Valetta
A domestic flight from the city of Sabha, southern Libya, to the Libyan capital city, Tripoli, carrying 118 people was hijacked after it took off on Friday.
The hijackers took control of Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320, on Friday afternoon. The claims were confirmed at 2.50pm when one of the hijackers was standing at the door of the aircraft waving the former green Libyan flag. One of the hijackers allegedly told a Libyan TV channel that he is the head of a “Pro-Gaddafi” party in Libya.
According to Reuters News Agency, a Libyan minister was quoted saying that the two hijackers were seeking political asylum in Malta. Once the plane landed, at around 1.45pm an aircraft door opened and women and children came out first, they were followed shortly after by the rest of the passengers.
The Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, initially said that the men were heavily armed with pistols and grenades, however, later it came known that the weapons were just replicas.
Muscat stated, in a press conference, that “the two hijackers have been detained in custody and interrogations are ongoing. The rest of the crew and passengers are also being questioned to ascertain event.”
Reuters claims that the Libyan Transport Minister was at one point negotiating with the hijackers to get them to hand themselves in. The passengers of the flight were then put on a plane and sent back to their original destination. Muscat said that “once the interrogation process is completed over the next few hours, arrangements will be made to carry the passengers and the crew members back to Libya with another Afriqiyah aircraft.”
The hijacking caused many delays with flights leaving Malta International Airport (MIA). Also, there were diversions for inbound flights; the abduction caused many issues. However, it is the first major hijack in Malta since 1985. Efforts to prevent another hijack will be increased.