Published: Sat, December 24, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Hijacked Libyan plane lands in Malta

Hijacked Libyan plane lands in Malta

The Afriqiyah Airways plane was diverted towards Malta, but turned back as far as Libyan airspace before changing course again and flying to the Mediterranean island, an airline official said.

Sign up to our daily newsletter for your chance to win. It has 118 people on board, including seven crew, according to Maltese media.

Malta International Airport said that there had been an "unlawful interference" on the runway, and that emergency services had been dispatched.

The flight was carrying 109 passengers including some crew members who have driven away into buses from Malta International Airport. Instead, the one-hour flight arrived on the island of Malta two hours later.

The airplane belongs to the state-owned Afriqiyah Airways and was meant to fly from Sabha in southern Libya to Tripoli's Mitiga airport, when two men hijacked it and threatened to blow the airbus A320 with hand grenade.

The drama began at 11.20 in the morning shortly before the jet was due to land at Tripoli's Mitiga airport after a routine flight from Sebha in southern Libya. After the Airbus was completely evacuated, one of the hijacker left the plane with a plain green flag resembling that of Gaddafi's era.

Former Libyan leader Gaddafi was killed in an uprising in 2011, and the country has been rocked by violence ever since.

It was unclear what the demands were.

Western powers have pinned their hopes of containing extremism in the energy-rich North African state on the government but it has failed to establish its authority over all of the country.

Earlier this month, militias answering to the UN-brokered government seized the Islamic State group's last stronghold in the Libyan city of Sirte.

A rival authority rules in the country's far-east, supported by the forces of former Libyan general Mashal Khalifa Haftar, claiming the United Nations -backed government to be illegitimate.

We'll update the story as it unfolds.

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