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Passengers on Hijacked Libyan Plane Return to Tripoli

  • VOA News

Passengers from a plane that was hijacked and diverted to Malta return to Tripoli's Mitiga International Airport, Libya, Dec. 24, 2016.

The 111 passengers who were on a hijacked plane diverted to Malta have been returned to the Libyan capital, the original destination for their flight.

The passengers, whose flight originated in Sabha, Libya, arrived in Tripoli on Saturday aboard a plane flown by Afriqiyah Airways, Libya's state-owned airline.

The two hijackers surrendered to police Friday after releasing all hostages onboard, Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

Initially, the hijackers ordered the pilot to fly to Rome, but they settled on Malta after they were informed the plane didn't have enough fuel to reach the central Italian city.

The hijackers eventually surrendered after releasing all of their hostages in three separate groups. Muscat said the hijackers were in custody and undergoing interrogation.

Libyan Foreign Minister Taher Siala said the hijackers were loyalists to the country's slain dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, and had asked for political asylum in Malta, although Muscat later contradicted the asylum comment.

Siala also said the hijackers wanted to set up a pro-Gadhafi political party.

Some of the 111 passengers from a plane that was hijacked and diverted to Malta walk through Tripoli's Mitiga International Airport, Libya, Dec. 24, 2016.
Some of the 111 passengers from a plane that was hijacked and diverted to Malta walk through Tripoli's Mitiga International Airport, Libya, Dec. 24, 2016.

Police said they found a grenade and two handguns on the plane, though Muscat tweeted later to say after investigation that the weapons appeared to be fakes.

Siala also said that before the crew and passengers were flown back to Libya early Saturday, they were questioned about what had happened during the hijacking.

The hijackers released 109 of the 118 people aboard shortly after the plane landed and emergency teams had been dispatched to the airport tarmac. Within a few hours, the remaining hostages were released and police arrested the hijackers.

All flights into Malta International Airport were initially canceled during the incident, but airport officials said Friday evening that operations were returning to normal.

Forty-four flights were affected by the tarmac standoff.

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