Two Libyan nationals who hijacked a domestic flight surrendered peacefully to authorities in Malta only to discover the suspects were armed with weapon replicas, according to authorities.
In a report from BBC, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted that the hijackers who seized control of the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 plane Friday bound for Tripoli with 118 passengers on board, were found to be armed with real-life replicas of pistols and a grenade. The flight was diverted to Malta instead.
"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," Muscat said in a press conference.
The hijackers, believed to be in their mid-20's hailed from the ethnic group Tebu in south Libya. The flight was in transit when 500 kilometers from the northern Libyan coast the hijackers declared the hijack by brandishing a grenade. They demanded the plane to land in Malta.
Negotiations seemed difficult at first as the hijackers demanded for two Maltese negotiators to board the plane which the authorities rejected. They also lost communication with the hijackers midway into the stand-off at the airport tarmac.
Eventually, when communications were restored negotiators were able to convince the hijackers to let go of the hostages and surrender peacefully. The surrender was done without bloodshed or any form of resistance from the suspects.
The hijackers were linked to Libya's former leader Muammar Gaddafi, after one of them waved a green Gaddafi- era flag apparently showing support for the slain leader who was killed back in 2011. Libya's foreign minister Taher Siala also said that the hijackers also demanded for the creation of a pro- Gaddafi political party while they were still in control of the plane.
Authorities admit that the hijackers were able to breeze through airport inspections due to lax security in the airport, which many believe is also reflective of the state of security in the nation. Politics in Libya, according to a BBC correspondent, is chaotic with armed groups having stakes in controlling the Libyan administration.
Libyans even have problems from flying out of the country and experience a lot of obstacles before they can travel to any European country. The main airport was also rendered inoperable when it was burned down in 2014 after warring militias were fighting to take control of it.
All flights were cancelled from the Malta International Airport and were diverted to other nearby airports during the stand-off.