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Robert Cusack

Crisis over: 'Pro-Gaddafi' Libyan plane hijackers arrested in Malta

Passengers leaving the Afriqiyah Airways plane at Malta airport on December 23 [AFP]

Date of publication: 23 December, 2016

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Two men, armed with explosives, held 111 passengers hostage on a plane at Malta International Airport on Friday.
Two men, armed with explosives, held 111 passengers hostage on a plane at Malta International Airport on Friday.

All of the hostages and flight crew were released within three hours and the men were later arrested.

Libya's Transport Minister, Milaad Maatouq, told The New Arab that the hostage crisis had ended and refused to comment on the details of the agreement.

Maatouq said that the commander of Malta's armed forces, Colonel Jeffrey Curmi, had led the negotiations with the hijackers.

The New Arab understands that the hijackers are called Musa Shehaa and Ahmed Ali and that the two men were seeking political asylum.

Musa Shehaa told Libya’s Channel TV station on Friday he was the head of a pro-Gaddafi political party called al-Fatah al-Jadid [The New al-Fateh], which is possibly a reference to Gaddafi's al-Fateh revolution.

Translation: #Libyan_plane_kidnapping - Terrorist criminal hijacker, Muse Shehaa al-Tibawi 

Armed soldiers immediately surrounded the plane after it landed in Malta at 11.32am.

Malta's 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 Afriqiyah Airways plane was originally scheduled to fly from Sabha to Tripoli on flight number 8U209, however the plane was diverted by the hijackers to Malta.

Sabha is mainly populated by members of the Gaddadfa tribe, the same tribe as deposed Libyan president, Muammar Gaddafi.

Al-Arabiya reported that a member of the Libyan House of Representatives was on board the plane.

All flights out of the airport were delayed or cancelled at the time of the incident.

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