The Libyan national airline, Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320, hijacked en route to the Libyan capital Tripoli from the city of Sabah, was diverted to Malta where the two hijackers surrendered after a long standoff between the hijackers and the negotiators.
The A320 landed at the Malta International Airport between 11:32 and 11:34 a.m. and the ensuing drama was all over by 3:44 p.m. as understood by a series of tweets that the Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, made all through the tense, nerve-racking, situation.
Most importantly it was a peaceful surrender with no casualties.
The hijackers allegedly armed with hand grenades threatened to blow up the A320 with 118 passengers on board including crew members.
One may wonder whether the numbers have taken into account the 2 hijackers, but then, one could be wrong – right?
Fortunately, the long standoff between the hijackers and the negotiators, which lasted for hours, ended with the peaceful surrender of the hijackers with no reported casualties – all not looked well but certainly ended well!
Television footage showed the two handcuffed hijackers being taken away from the aircraft.
The Prime Minister of Malta, a small Mediterranean island, sent the following tweet: “Hijackers surrendered, searched and taken in custody”.
According to the Libyan Channel TV Station, one hijacker who identified himself as Moussa Shaha claimed to be the head of ‘Al-Fateh Al-Jadid’ which translates to The New Al-Fateh – a pro-Gaddafi group.
Later the channel quoted the self –proclaimed leader of the group as saying,” “We took this measure to declare and promote our new party.”
According to the Malta state television, TVM, soon after the landing of the hijacked Airbus A320, all flights due to land at the Malta International Airport were diverted to other destinations.
Thereafter, the emergency team including negotiators were deployed at the tarmac while the plane stood at a safe distance.
Ali Milad, the captain of the hijacked plane is reported to have told the Libya Channel TV that, at first, the hijackers’ intentions were to divert the flight to Rome and he is also said to have confirmed the names of the two hijackers as Moussa Shaha and Ahmad Ali – both in their twenties as told by other officials.
During the Standoff hours at the tarmac, troops were deployed strategically a few 100 meters from the plane, in the case of any signs of violence which is always a possibility in such cases.
In a post-hijack press conference, PM Muscat confirmed that there had been negotiations between the Maltese authorities and the Libyan hijackers.
“We were not willing to negotiate until there was surrender,” he told the press gathering.
“There has been no request for asylum by the hijackers [yet]” he added. Muscat confirmed in the scripted press briefing that “the two hijackers have been detained in custody and interrogations are ongoing.”
Watch the press conference below: