Two hijackers diverted a Libyan commercial plane to Malta today and threatened to blow it up with hand grenades, Maltese authorities and state media said.
The Malta airport authority said all emergency teams had been dispatched to the site of what it called an “unlawful interference” on the airport tarmac.
The plane’s engines were still running today long after the aircraft landed at 11:32 AM (0402 IST).
State television TVM said the two hijackers on board had hand grenades and had threatened to explode them.
All flights into Malta International Airport have been diverted.
Meanwhile, the Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted saying the first group of passengers consisting of women and children were being released.
First group of passengers, consisting of women and children, being released now.
— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) December 23, 2016
This was after Muscat spoke to to Libyan Prime Minister Faez al Serraj and apprised him on the situation. In total, the hijackers had allowed 25 passengers to leave the plane.
Airport officials said the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 flight from Sabha, with original destination Tripoli, had 118 people on board: Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat said that included 111 passengers, 82 men, 28 women and an infant.
Muscat had tweeted earlier that there was a “potential hijack situation” involving an internal Libyan flight that was diverted to Malta and that emergency operations were underway at the airport.
Malta’s National Security Committee was coordinating the operation, a government statement said.
The hijacker has 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 reported.
Muscat’s office confirmed that a negotiating team is on standby awaiting instructions from the prime minister, who is in a meeting with the National Security Committee.
(With agencies inputs)