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.
Pregnant Kate Middleton will no longer visit Malta this weekend on the advice of doctors, Kensington Palace has said.
The Duchess of Cambridge – who is pregnant with her second child and has been suffering from acute morning sickness – had been due to undertake her first official solo overseas visit.
Prince William will instead take the place of his wife, Kensington Palace has said.
“The decision not to travel was taken by the duke and duchess on the advice of the duchess’s doctors,” it added.
The royal couple made their decision on Wednesday night.
Kensington Palace said Kate Middleton “continues to suffer from the effects of Hyperemesis Gravidarum”, a sickness condition that can require supplementary hydration, medication and nutrients.
Pregnant Kate Middleton will no longer visit Malta this weekend on the advice of doctors
The trip would have seen the duchess mark the 50th anniversary of Malta’s independence.
In her place, Prince William will visit the national library to see letters from past British monarchs Henry VIII and George II, take part in Independence Day celebrations and a complete a number of walkabouts.
“The duke is honored to represent Her Majesty the Queen on the visit, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of Malta’s independence.
“The visit itinerary remains unchanged,” the palace added in the statement.
Prince William and Kate Middleton had been forced to announce their second pregnancy earlier this month before the duchess passed the significant 12-week milestone.
The announcement was made because she had been suffering from acute sickness – as she had with her first child Prince George, who was born in July 2013.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum affects 3.5 per 1,000 pregnancies, causes severe vomiting and can lead to dehydration, weight loss and a build-up of toxins in the blood or urine, called ketosis.
Kate Middleton has been receiving treatment from doctors at Kensington Palace.
Malta has responded to EU pressure over its controversial new passport scheme for non-EU nationals, announcing that applicants will now be required to spend at least a year in the country in order to qualify.
The new condition was announced by Malta in a joint statement with the European Commission.
Applicants will still have to invest at least 1.15 million euros ($1.57 million) in Malta to get a passport.
MEPs have condemned the Maltese scheme, saying it cheapens EU citizenship.
Earlier Malta had not set any residency requirement for rich foreigners wishing to get Maltese passports.
The new stipulation says “no certificate of naturalization will be issued unless the applicant provides proof that he/she has resided in Malta for a period of at least 12 months immediately preceding the day of issuing of the certificate of naturalization”.
Malta has changed its controversial new passport scheme for non-EU nationals
It followed talks between EU Commission officials and the Maltese government. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has said applicants should have “a genuine link to the country” – not just the ability to pay.
Malta, like most of the EU’s 28 countries, is in the Schengen zone, where citizens can mostly travel without passport checks. The EU single market has made it much easier for citizens to settle in another member state.
Owning an EU member state’s passport entitles the holder to EU citizenship, with all the rights guaranteed under EU law.
Malta’s scheme, called the Individual Investor Programme (IIP), was initially to be limited to 1,800 people – not including their close relatives, who could also buy passports, for a lower fee.
Malta is now considering raising that cap, so that more passports could be issued.