Photo: Reuters / Darrin Zamit-LupiReading Time: 2 minutes
An Afriqiyah Airways A320 with around 120 people on board has just landed in Malta after it was hijacked.
At 12.13pm, the plane’s engines were still running and it was surrounded by AFM soldiers at a distance. It did not seem anyone had yet approached the plane.
Two hijackers had threatened to blow up the Airbus A320, which had 118 people aboard, outlets including the Times of Malta said. The aircraft had been flying from Sebha in southwest Libya to Tripoli for state-owned Afriqiyah Airways.
The tiny Mediterranean island of Malta is about 500 km (300 miles) north of the Libyan coast.
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”.
The hijacker claiming to be pro-Gaddafi, said he was willing to let all passengers go apart from the crew, if his demands were met. It is not known what his demands are at this stage.
Meanwhile MIA has informed passengers in the Departures Lounge that all flights have been cancelled or diverted until further notice. At present Ryanair and Lufthansa planes are on the apron.
The last major hijack incident in Malta took place in November 23, 1985 when an EgyptAir Boeing 737 plane was diverted to the island.
What followed was a 24-hour nightmare that ended in a bloody massacre with 62 people dead when Egyptian commandos stormed the plane.. Only one of the three hijackers survived and was brought to justice.
Forty-three years ago then Prime Minster Dom Mintoff managed to negotiate the release of 247 passengers and eight air hostesses on board a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet which was also hijacked over Iraq and flown to Malta.
The passengers and air hostesses were released in return for fuel. The plane had been hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. The plane later left Malta and the hijackers eventually surrendered.