Malta: Hostages freed as Libyan plane hijackers surrender
Issued on: Modified:
All the passengers and crew members on a hijacked Libyan plane in Malta have been released unharmed ... as the two hijackers surrender, and request asylum on the Mediterannean island.
The hijacked Airbus A320 operated by state-run Afriqiyah Airways was diverted to Malta International Airport en route from Sabha in southwestern Libya to the northern capital Tripoli.
The two hijackers claimed to have a grenade and threatened to blow up the plane, but surrendered late Friday afternoon according to Maltese officials.
Hijackers seek asylum
The pair are reportedly supporters of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and have asked for political asylum in Malta according to the Libyan governement.
Taher Siala, the foreign minister of Libya's UN-brokered Government of National Accord, said the hijackers also want to set up a pro-Gaddafi political party.
Malta's Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, kept the world updated on the incident on Twitter.
It has been established that #Afriqiyah flight has 111 passengers on board. 82 males, 28 females, 1 infant.— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) December 23, 2016
The plane could be seen on the tarmac surrounded by military vehicles as all flights to and from the airport were cancelled.
Initial reports claimed that just one hijacker was involved.
Libya has been in a state of chaos since the 2011 overthrow of Gaddafi left warring militias battling for control of different parts of the country.
Forces loyal to the fledgling national unity government recently took control of the coastal city of Sirte, which had been a bastion for the Islamic State group since June 2015.