Update: Hijackers surrendered, searched and taken in custody, tweets Malta PM. “Final crew members leaving aircraft with hijackers”, tweets Malta PM Joseph Muscat. Libyan plane hijackers want pro-Gaddafi party to be created. Hijacker of Libyan plane diverted to Malta tells Libyan TV he is head of pro-Gaddafi party: Reuters. Libya plane hijackers asking for asylum in Malta: minister.
Plane Hijack update: “Crew members being released”, tweets Malta PM Joseph Muscat. It is believed 109 passengers have now been released from the hijacked plane in Malta.
Update: 65 passengers from hijacked Libyan plane released. 9 flights through Malta diverted; 65 passengers released; Total 111 passengers and 7 crew members were on board. First group of passengers, consisting of women and children, being released now: tweets Maltese Prime Minister. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says group of 25 passengers consisting of women and children have been released from the hijacked plane.
Valletta: An airliner on an internal flight in Libya was hijacked by a man claiming to have a hand grenade on Friday and diverted to Malta, where it landed with 118 people on board.
The hijacker told crew he was “pro-Gaddafi” and that he was willing to let all 111 passengers leave the Airbus A320, but not its seven crew, if his demands were met, the Times of Malta said.
It was unclear what the demands were or whether the hijacker was acting alone. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in an uprising in 2011, and the country has been racked by factional violence since.
Troops took up positions a few hundred meters (yards) from the plane as it stood on the tarmac and no one was seen boarding or leaving it. The aircraft’s engines were still running 45 minutes after it landed in late morning, the Times of Malta said.
All other flights at Malta International Airport were canceled or diverted, it said.
The aircraft had been flying from Sebha in southwest Libya to Tripoli for state-owned Afriqiyah Airways, a route that would usually take a little over two hours.
The tiny Mediterranean island of Malta, a European Union member, is about 500 km (300 miles) north of Tripoli.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted: “Informed of potential hijack situation of a #Libya internal flight diverted to #Malta. Security and emergency operations standing by -JM”.