Hijacked Libyan plane lands in Malta: PM

A Maltese military vehicle stands near a hijacked Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta airport on December 23, 2016. Darrin Zamit-Lupi / Reuters
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VALLETTA, MALTA // A hijacked plane from Libya landed on the Mediterranean island of Malta on Friday with 118 people, including seven crew members, on board, Malta’s prime minister and government sources said.

The Airbus A320 had been on a domestic Libyan route operated by Afriqiyah Airways from Sabha in the south to the capital Tripoli but was re-routed.

“The Afriqiyah flight from Sabha to Tripoli has been diverted and has landed in Malta. Security services coordinating operations,” prime minister Joseph Muscat said on Twitter.

Libya confirmed the plane had been diverted.

Malta international airport tweeted: “MIA confirms there is an unlawful interference at the airport. Emergency teams dispatched”.

The plane could be seen on the tarmac surrounded by military vehicles and all flights have been cancelled.

Maltese government sources said that a single hijacker was on board and had told crew that he had a grenade. The hijacker said he would release the passengers as long as his as yet unspecified demands were accepted.

Libya has been in a state of chaos since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi 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 ISIL 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 extremists in the city of Benghazi.

* Agence France-Presse