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The men who seized control of a Libyan plane have surrendered in Malta.

The Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 with 118 people on board was hijacked after taking off from Sabha, bound for the Libyan capital Tripoli.

Instead, the plane was diverted to Malta International Airport.

It appears the two hijackers are supporters of Libya’s late deposed leader, Muammar Gaddafi.


Images of the two men kneeling on the tarmac with their hands up appear to show the moment they were arrested by the Maltese authorities.

All the passengers – including one infant – and a number of the crew had already been released.

Image source Wikimedia

Malta’s PM Joseph Muscat initially said that the men had been armed with pistols and a grenade – but later tweeted that the weapons appeared to be replicas.

Joseph Muscat said neither of the men, believed to be of Libyan nationality, had made any demands.

The prime minister told a press conference: “The two hijackers have been detained in custody and interrogations are ongoing. The rest of the crew and passengers are also being questioned to ascertain events.

“Once this interrogation process is completed over the next few hours arrangements will be made to send the passengers and the crew members back to Libya with another Afriqiyah aircraft.”

Shortly before the incident drew to an end, one man emerged from the plane briefly and stood on the plane steps waving a green, Gaddafi-era flag – adding support to earlier suggestions they were loyalists to the former leader, killed in 2011.

Taher Siala, the foreign minister of Libya’s internationally backed Government of National Accord, said the hijackers wanted to set up a pro-Gaddafi political party.

One of the hijackers told a Libyan TV station: “We took this measure to declare and promote our new party.”

The incident began after the plane took off from Sabha at 11:10 local time, landing in Malta two hours and 20 minutes later.

PM Joseph Muscat said the passenger list included 82 men, 28 women and one baby.

Malta International Airport was closed and all flights were diverted while the incident was on-going.

Libya has been in a state of chaos since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, who had ruled the country since 1969.

At least 22 people have died in days of fighting in Libya’s town of Bani Walid, state news agency Lana says.

It says that some 200 people were injured in the clashes between pro-government militia and gunmen in former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s bastion.

Libya’s new government has struggled to stamp its authority on a country awash with weapons.

Meanwhile, confusion remains about reports that Moussa Ibrahim, Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s ex-spokesman, has been captured.

The prime minister’s office said on Saturday that government forces had arrested Moussa Ibrahim south of Tripoli.

But Nasser al-Manaa, the prime minister’s spokesman, later said there was no proof of the capture.

A recording purportedly by Moussa Ibrahim later appeared on the internet denying the news.

And on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur said that the announcement about Moussa Ibrahim’s arrest had been made without confirmation of the news.

Pro-government militia, many of whom are from the rival town of Misrata, have been shelling Bani Walid for several days.

The government claims that Bani Walid is harboring a number of Gaddafi loyalists – a claim denied by the militia in the town, about 140 km (90 miles) south-east of Tripoli,

In addition, Misrata fighters are reportedly seeking to capture the men who allegedly kidnapped and tortured the man credited with capturing Muammar Gaddafi last October.

Omran Ben Shaaban, a fighter from Misrata, died last month after allegedly spending two months in detention in Bani Walid. His death enraged Misrata’s militia.

On Sunday, Bani Walid militia leader Abdelkarim Ghomaid said that “the attacks are continuing”.

“The shelling is coming from all sides,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The fighting comes around the first anniversary of Gaddafi’s capture in Sirte, on 20 October 2011. He was later killed near his hometown.

Interim leader Mohammed Magarief has admitted that one year on, the country has not yet been fully liberated.

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