LIVE UPDATES: Hijackers Surrender And Final Crew Members Are Evacuated
Hijackers are being searched and taken into custody
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has announced that the hijackers have surrendered and will be taken into custody after having been searched.
Hijackers surrendered, searched and taken in custody.— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) December 23, 2016
Five remaining crew members emerged a few minutes ago from the hijacked plane along with a final sixth person, the same individual who had earlier emerged waving a green flag allegedly in allegiance with the former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The hijacker was disarmed by security after laying on the ground.
All passengers aboard the hijacked plane that landed in Malta today have been released, but the hijackers and some crew members are still on board. Before all the crew were evacuated, a man wearing a suit emerged waving a green flag, which is being interpreted as a political statement in favour of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Potentially 2 hijackers and some crew members still on board aircraft.— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) December 23, 2016
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who has been live tweeting throughout the hijack, said 109 passengers were being released after just over three hours since the hijacked plane landed in Malta. Some crew members were also released.
Further 44 passengers being released.— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) December 23, 2016
65 passengers released so far.— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) December 23, 2016
Two hijackers allegedly carrying hand-grenades threatened to blow up 118 people, including an infant, aboard an Afriqiyah plane. Their demands are not yet known.
The plane's doors opened at 1.46pm and passengers began to be evacuated. They walked calmly off the plane and into a nearby coach. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed 25 women and children were evacuated successfully. More passengers continued to be released, including men.
Malta's national news station, TVM, has reported that the two hijackers are supporters of the former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who had opened the Libyan airline Afriqiyah as a political statement in 2001.
Negotiations with hijackers are being led by the Commander of the Armed Forces of Malta Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi, together with a team of Maltese negotiators. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has spoken to Libyan Prime Minister Faez al Serraj about the situation.
Al Arabiya has reported that a Libyan MP is on board the hijacked plane.
An image published on NET New's Facebook page shows an alleged photo from inside the aircraft.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat revealed the news on Twitter, saying he was informed of a 'potential hijack situation' involving a Libyan flight that was diverted to Malta.
"Security and emergency operations standing by," he said. Later Dr Muscat added that the passengers included 82 males, 28 females and 1 infant.
Malta International Airport confirmed there was an "unlawful interference" at the airport. "All emergency teams have been dispatched to the site. Passengers are advised to follow www.maltairport.com for updates," it said in a short statement. It later added that while some flights have been delayed or diverted, airport operations have resumed.
Net News has published a video of the hijacked plane landing in Malta. It claims two men are threatening to bomb 111 passengers and 7 members of crew.
This isn't the first time Malta is facing these kind of shocking events. In 1985 a hijacked EgyptAir Boeing 737 passenger plane landed in Malta for 24 hours. The incident resulted in 62 fatalities and only one of the three hijackers surviving.
According to TVM the plane landed in Malta at 11:32am. It left Sebha at 10:10am and was meant to land Tripoli at 11:20pm.