In a very shocking development, a Libyan plane with 118 people onboard has been hijacked by 2 people. The plan is now at Malta. Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted that “he had been alerted of a potential hijack of a Libyan plane reported to be headed for Malta.”
Malta Times reported that “a plane, carrying 118 people, including seven crew members landed in Malta at 11.32 am local time.”
Maltese media reported that the hijacked plane, Afriqiyah Airways flight number 8U209, left Sabha in South West Libya. It was scheduled to arrive in Tripoli at 11.20 am, but was instead diverted to the tiny island of Malta. The flight has been operated by Afriqiyah Airways.
Initial reports suggested the hijackers had threatened to bomb the plane. Joseph Muscat, the Maltese premier, said that “security forces were standing by to deal with the unfolding situation.”
Emergency teams had been dispatched to the airport and soldiers and special forces vehicles were seen on the runway surrounding the plane.
The Airbus A320 was on an internal flight for Afriqiyah Airways when it was diverted on Friday morning. Two hijackers appear to be on board the plane on the runway, according to Malta airport.
The tiny Mediterranean island of Malta is about 300 miles (500 km) north of the Libya. Libya has been in a state of chaos since the 2011 overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi. This event left warring militias battling for control of different parts of the country.
The Telegraph reported that “Forces loyal to a fledgling national unity government recently took control of the coastal city of Sirte. This city had been a bastion for the Islamic State group since June 2015.”
Western powers have pinned their hopes of containing jihadism in the energy-rich North African state on the government. It seems that it has failed to establish its authority over all of the country.
A rival authority rules the country’s far east, backed by the forces under military strongman Marshal Khalifa Haftar. He has battling jihadists in second city Benghazi.