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Hijackers threaten to blow up diverted Libyan plane with 82 men, 28 women, 1 infant onboard

An airliner with 118 people aboard on an internal flight in Libya was hijacked and diverted to Malta where it landed on Friday, Maltese media reported.

The plane had been on a domestic Libyan route operated by Afriqiyah Airways from Sabha in the south to the capital Tripoli but was re-routed.

Malta state TV says two hijackers on the diverted plane have hand grenades and are threatening to blow up the aircraft.

“The Afriqiyah flight from Sabha to Tripoli has been diverted and has landed in Malta. Security services coordinating operations,” Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Twitter.

Libya confirmed the plane had been diverted.

Malta International Airport tweeted: “MIA confirms there is an unlawful interference at the airport. Emergency teams dispatched”.

The plane could be seen on the tarmac surrounded by military vehicles and all flights have been cancelled.

Libya has been in a state of chaos since the 2011 overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi left warring militias battling for control of different parts of the country.

An hour after the hijack, the plane was surrounded by Maltese security forces.  The report added that one of the hijacker, believed to be pro-Gaddafi, is in possession of a hand grenade, while their demands are unknown.

Forces loyal to a fledgling national unity government recently took control of the coastal city of Sirte, which had been a bastion for the Islamic State group since June 2015.

Western powers have pinned their hopes of containing jihadism in the energy-rich North African state on the government but it has failed to establish its authority over all of the country.

A rival authority rules the country’s far east, backed by the forces under military strongman Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who have been battling jihadists in second city Benghazi.

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