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Friday, December 23, 2016

Hijacked Libyan plane lands in Malta with 118 on board

Fri Dec 23, 2016 | 11:45am GMT leftright 4/4leftright Maltese troops survey a hijacked Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta Airport, December 23, 2016. REUTERS/Darrin Zamit-Lupi An airliner on an internal flight in Libya was hijacked by a man claiming to have a hand grenade on Friday and diverted to Malta, where it landed with 118 people on board. The hijacker 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 said. It was unclear what the demands were or whether the hijacker was acting alone. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in an uprising in 2011, and the country has been racked by factional violence since. Troops took up positions a few hundred metres (yards) from the plane as it stood on the tarmac and no one was seen boarding or leaving it. The aircraft's engines were still running 45 minutes after it landed in late morning, the Times of Malta said. All other flights at Malta International Airport were cancelled or diverted, it said. The aircraft had been flying from Sebha in southwest Libya to Tripoli for state-owned Afriqiyah Airways, a route that would usually take a little over two hours. The tiny Mediterranean island of Malta, a European Union member, is about 500 km (300 miles) north of Tripoli. ALSO IN WORLD NEWS Berlin market attack suspect killed in shootout in northern Italy Syrian rebels shell Aleppo after withdrawal 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". (Reporting by Chris Scicluna; Written by Andrew Roche Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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