Hijacked Libyan jet lands in Malta, 118 people on board

A Libyan aircraft with 118 people on board, including 82 men, 28 women and an infant, was hijacked on Friday by a man claiming to have a hand grenade, media in Malta reported.

The hijacker told the 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.

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

It was unclear what the demands were or whether the hijacker was acting alone.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed on Twitter that “The #Afriqiyah flight from #Sabha to #Tripoli has been diverted and has landed in #Malta. Security services coordinating operations.”

He added: “It has been established that #Afriqiyah flight has 111 passengers on board. 82 males, 28 females, 1 infant.”

Libya’s UN-backed government confirmed the hijacking and its forced diversion to Malta, Libya’s state news agency LANA reported.

All passengers aboard the plane were in good health, an unnamed official at the Libyan foreign ministry told the agency.

“(Libyan) Foreign Minister Mohammed Sayala has immediately started intense contacts with his Maltese counterpart and the government there,” the official added.

Security personnel took up positions a few hundred metres from the plane as it stood on the tarmac and no one was seen boarding or leaving it.

The aircraft’s engines were running 45 minutes after it landed, the Times of Malta said. All other flights at Malta International Airport were cancelled or diverted, it said.

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