Afriqiyah Airways Tripoli confirms hijacked Libyan plane diverted to Malta

Maltese government sources said there were 118 people on board the plane, including seven crew.

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A group of hostages is released from a hijacked Afriqiyah Airways plane in Malta on December 23, 2016 play

A group of hostages is released from a hijacked Afriqiyah Airways plane in Malta on December 23, 2016

(AFP)
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Hijackers diverted a plane belonging to Libya's national carrier to the Mediterranean island of Malta Friday, the Libyan government confirmed.

The Afriqiyah Airways plane, which was heading from Sabha in southern Libya to the capital Tripoli, was re-directed and received permission to land at Valletta, a source from Libya's unity government told AFP, asking not to be named.

"Negotiations are underway to guarantee the security of all the passengers," the source said, without specifying who was negotiating.

Maltese government sources said there were 118 people on board the plane, including seven crew.

An Afriqiyah Airways source said two hijackers had threatened the pilots with an explosive device, probably a grenade, forcing them to head for Malta instead of landing at Tripoli's Mitiga airport.

The hijackers have not yet been identified, the source added.

Libya has been rocked by chaos since the fall of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Only local airlines -- banned from European airspace -- operate in Libya, with flights to Tunis, Cairo, Amman, Istanbul and Khartoum.

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