Hijackers of Libyan plane surrender in Malta
VALETTA – Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoHijackers claiming to have a grenade took over a Libyan plane Dec. 23 and diverted it to Malta before releasing everyone onboard and surrendering to authorities, officials said.
“Final crew members leaving aircraft with hijackers,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Twitter.
Minutes later he added: “Hijackers surrendered, searched and taken in custody.”
Libyan Foreign Minister Taher Siala said the two hijackers were supporters of slain dictator Moamer -Gadhafi and had requested political asylum in Malta.
Siala, from Libya’s internationally backed Government of National Accord, said the hijackers have also said they want to set up a pro-Gadhafi political party.
The plane landed at 11:32 a.m. (10:32 a.m. GMT) in Malta.
After more than an hour on the tarmac, the door of the Airbus A320 opened and a first group of women and children were seen descending a mobile staircase.
Dozens more passengers were released minutes later following negotiations that Maltese government sources said were led by the head of Malta’s military.
In all there were 111 passengers, including 28 women and a baby, on board, as well as seven crew members.
The aircraft had been on a domestic Libyan route operated by Afriqiyah Airways from Sabha in southern Libya 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,” Muscat tweeted earlier.