VALLETTA: Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Friday on Twitter he had been alerted to a “potential hijack” of a Libyan plane reported to be headed for the Mediterranean island.
“Informed of potential hijack situation of a #Libya internal flight diverted to #Malta. Security and emergency operations standing by -JM,” the premier said in a post from his official account.
Maltese government sources told Agence France-Presse there were 118 people on board the plane, including seven crew.
Maltese media reported that the hijacked plane was an Airbus 320 that had been on a domestic Libyan flight operated by Afriqiyah Airways.
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.
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. AFP