Malta hostage situation: Hijackers release 65 passengers, ‘vow to keep pilot on board’ - LIVE
A passenger who spoke to an unnamed Libyan MP has confirmed that the hijackers have grenades, but it still remains unclear what their demands are, Reuters reports.
According to Prime Minister Muscat, 65 passengers have been freed as the rescue operation continues.
An Afriqiyah Airways official told AP that the two hijackers had expressed a willingness to release the passengers, but will keep the pilot on board.
The official also told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV that Libyan lawmaker Abdel-Salam al-Marabet was among the list of passengers. AP reported that it remains unclear whether he actually boarded the flight.
Following the release of women and an infant, male passengers now appear to be exiting the aircraft.
According to Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, 25 passengers have now been released.
Mayor Hamed al-Khayali from the Libyan town of Sebha where the plane was hijacked told the BBC that security at the airport “is not good.”
“It was hijacked and investigations are continuing to establish how any explosives or weapons made it on board,” al-Khayali said, adding that “the security at this airport is no good. It’s a military airport.”
Passengers are seen exiting the plane as security forces continue to monitor the situation.
Maltese officials are locked in negotiations with up to two hijackers, described as being from the pro-Gaddafi group Al Fatah Al Gadida, who have seized control of Afriqiyah Airways flight 8U209 in Libya, forcing the Airbus A320 plane to divert to Malta.
There are conflicting reports as to how many hijackers are on board the flight, with some media outlets indicating two while the Times of Malta report there is only one suspect involved.
Described as being “pro-Gaddafi,” the hijacker is reportedly in possession of a hand grenade and has threatened to blow up the plane if demands are not met, although the nature of these demands are not yet known. It’s reported that Libyan and Maltese authorities are in negotiations with the hijackers.
“Informed of potential hijack situation of a Libya internal flight diverted to Malta. Security and emergency operations standing by,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted on Friday.
The hijackers, described by Times of Malta as being “pro-Gaddafi,” have reportedly threatened to blow up the plane, with one of the suspects in possession of a hand grenade. Their demands are not yet known.
It`s understood the plane was making an internal flight from Sebha to Tripoli, with 111 passengers on board and 7 crew, but has now landed at Malta International Airport.
Opposition party leader Simon Busuttil, also tweeted about the incident, calling it a “grave concern.”
“My full cooperation to Govt to protect Malta security and the safety of passengers,” he wrote.
A plane was reportedly hijacked over Libya.
The internal flight was diverted to the Mediterranean island of Malta.
Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta, said he had been informed of a "potential hijack".
He wrote on Twitter: "Informed of potential hijack situation of a #Libya internal flight diverted to #Malta. Security and emergency operations standing by."
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