Earlier today two Libyan men armed with grenades and other unknown weapons hijacked an Afriqiyah Airlines Airbus A320. The Libyan state-owned airline was a domestic flight en route to the capital city of Tripoli from Sabha carrying 118 passengers. The two now identified hijackers known as Mousa Shaha and Ahmed Ali forced the aircraft to divert from its course to Tripoli and fly eight hours north of Libya to land on the island of Malta just off the coast of Sicily.
Once the Afriqiyah Airlines Airbus landed at the Malta International Airport, the hijackers declared to have hand grenades and threatened to blow up the airplane and the hostages which included Abdel-Salam al-Marabet a Libyan lawmaker for the U.N-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). Negotiations along with special security teams were set in place and after a short discussion with officials on the ground, the hijackers released 109 of their hostages, keeping the crew. Abdel-Salam al-Marabet reported that the hijackers were “demanding asylum in a European country where they can establish a political party named al-Fateh that represents the old (Libyan) regime,” in a phone conversation with other GNA lawmakers in Sabha while still being held hostage.
The Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who was in constant contact with the hostage takers along with the GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Reported that at 1:44pm Malta time that all hostages were released and the hijackers decided to give themselves up to Maltese authorities with one of the hijackers waving what looked like a green flag of the old Libyan regime. The hijacked flight which originated in Sabha, Libya is known to harbor loyalists of the old Gaddafi regime where the young hijackers claimed fealty, along with the majority in Sabha having distrust of the UN-proctored interim Libyan governing body, the GNA.
Libya has been in flux as of late with three days of intense fighting occurring earlier this month in the capital city of Tripoli; where Gaddafi loyalist rebels fought with pro-GNA backed militias for control of Tripoli’s urban area in street to street battles that ended in yet another shaky cease-fire.
Featured image courtesy of AP