An aircraft that has left from Libya earlier today was hijacked and landed in Malta this morning at 11.32am, with sources saying that two people on board the flight are threatening to blow up the aircraft.
First, 25 passengers were released. The plane’s door was opened at 1.44pm and women and children were seen disembarking. This was followed by men, and by 2.23 pm, a total of 65 passengers had disembarked.
The plane is an Afriqiyah Airways A320 with 111 passengers on board, including 82 men, 28 women and one infant. The airplane’s door was opened at 1.44pm and some passengers started to disembark. The Prime Minister, in a tweet, said that women and children were disembarking.
Sources at the airport said that negotiations are taking place, and the Malta International Airport has confirmed that there is an unlawful interference at the airport.
“All emergency teams have been dispatched to the site. Passengers are advised to follow http://www.maltairport.com for updates,” an MIA statement concluded.
The Prime Minister is leading the National Security Committee from Castille in dealing with the incident.
The Office of the Prime Minister has confirmed negotiating team is on standby at Malta International Airport to hold negotiations with the hijackers.
Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi is leading negotiations, with the hijackers. This is contradictory to what the Libyan media has reported, where they said that the Libyan Transport Ministry are leading negotiators.
Al Naba Libyan TV is quoting the minister of transportation Milad Matouq as saying that the Maltese authorities are negotiating with the hijackers.
Other Arab media are reporting that a Libyan MP is on board the plane.
An official from Afriqiyah Airways said the two hijackers had expressed a willingness to release the passengers but that they will keep the pilot. Serraj al-Fitouri also told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV that one Libyan lawmaker was among the list of passengers. It was unclear whether the lawmaker, identified as Abdel-Salam al-Marabet, had been on the flight that was hijacked earlier Friday.
In a first official statement issued soon after the plane landed, the government said the Prime Minister is at his office in Castille where the National Security Committee is coordinating the operation, statement said.
The Nationalist Party, in a statement, said the Opposition Leader was informed by the Prime Minister about the incident. The PN said it offered its full cooperation.
It left Sebha at 10.10am on its way to Tripoli, but it was hijacked and diverted to Malta. TVM is reporting that the hijackers are armed with hand grenades and are Gaddafi supporters.
Airport sources say that the aircraft pilot is continuously requesting the Air Traffic Control on information about who will be negotiating with the hijackers. The plane’s engines are still running.
Several emergency measures are being taken at Malta International Airport. A spokesperson from the Armed Forces of Malta informed this newsroom that all AFM units, including the C ‘Special Duties’ company – which is the AFM’s counter terrorism unit.
MIA CEO Alan Borg, when contacted by The Malta Independent, said that this is a matter being handled by the government.
President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca appealed for everyone to remain calm and follow official updates.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna is praying for the safety and security of all those on-board.
All roads leading to the airport have been blocked.
The last hijacking in Malta was aboard EgyptAir Flight 648 back in 1985. It was a 24-hour ordeal that ended in bloodshed. The storming of the EgyptAir plane back then resulted in the deaths of 62 people. Only one of the three hijackers survived and was brought to justice.
Prayers for the delicate situation at Malta International Airport. May wisdom & good sense prevail. We pray for safety and security for all. pic.twitter.com/WouAucnKmv
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has spoken with Libyan Prime Minister Faez al Serraj.