Libya hijacking plane malta mkd orig_00000000.jpg
Reuters
Libya hijacking plane malta mkd orig_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:22
Hijacking in Malta: How it unfolded
The Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat gives updates on the plane hijack
RTL
The Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat gives updates on the plane hijack
Now playing
01:32
Malta PM: Hand grenade found on hijacked plane
A picture taken on December 23, 2016 shows a hijacked Airbus A320 operated by Afriqiyah Airways after it landed at Luqa Airport, in Malta.
A hijacked plane from Libya landed on the Mediterranean island of Malta on December 23 with 118 people including seven crew members on board, Malta's prime minister and government sources said. The Airbus A320 had been on a domestic Libyan route operated by Afriqiyah Airways from Sabha in the south to the capital Tripoli but was re-routed.
 / AFP / Matthew Mirabelli / Malta OUT        (Photo credit should read MATTHEW MIRABELLI/AFP/Getty Images)
MATTHEW MIRABELLI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A picture taken on December 23, 2016 shows a hijacked Airbus A320 operated by Afriqiyah Airways after it landed at Luqa Airport, in Malta. A hijacked plane from Libya landed on the Mediterranean island of Malta on December 23 with 118 people including seven crew members on board, Malta's prime minister and government sources said. The Airbus A320 had been on a domestic Libyan route operated by Afriqiyah Airways from Sabha in the south to the capital Tripoli but was re-routed. / AFP / Matthew Mirabelli / Malta OUT (Photo credit should read MATTHEW MIRABELLI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:12
Hijackers surrender, taken into custody
An Afriqiyah Airways plane stands on the tarmac at Malta's Luqa International airport as passengers depart, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016. Hijackers diverted the Libyan commercial plane to Malta on Friday and threatened to blow it up with hand grenades, Maltese authorities and state media said. (AP Photo)
AP
An Afriqiyah Airways plane stands on the tarmac at Malta's Luqa International airport as passengers depart, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016. Hijackers diverted the Libyan commercial plane to Malta on Friday and threatened to blow it up with hand grenades, Maltese authorities and state media said. (AP Photo)
Now playing
01:21
Some passengers released from hijacked plane
Algerian plane Malta
TVM
Algerian plane Malta
Now playing
01:39
Malta: 'Potential hijack' of Libyan plane
A man climbs out of the cockpit window an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 parked at the tarmac of Larnaca airport after being hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016. 
The hijacker who seized the Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Cyprus has been detained, Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said. / AFP / BEHROUZ MEHRI        (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A man climbs out of the cockpit window an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 parked at the tarmac of Larnaca airport after being hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016. The hijacker who seized the Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Cyprus has been detained, Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said. / AFP / BEHROUZ MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:30
EgyptAir hijacking: What happened
ac dealing with a hijacking_00013121.jpg
ac dealing with a hijacking_00013121.jpg
Now playing
02:34
How to handle a hijacker
walsh sochi turkey plane hijacking attempt_00004206.jpg
DHA
walsh sochi turkey plane hijacking attempt_00004206.jpg
Now playing
02:24
Hijacker wanted to go to Sochi
pkg oppman cuba fugitive return_00000114.jpg
pkg oppman cuba fugitive return_00000114.jpg
Now playing
02:05
Hijacker wants to return to U.S.

Story highlights

All passengers and crew members released, returned to Libya

Hijackers are being interrogated, Malta's Prime Minister says

CNN —  

Two hijackers surrendered Friday, hours after forcing a Libyan plane to land in Malta and threatening to blow up the aircraft.

Authorities did not say whether the pair had made any demands. But one waved a green flag outside the aircraft, suggesting loyalty to the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Afriqiyah Airways Flight 8U209 was en route to the Libyan capital of Tripoli with 111 passengers aboard when hijackers diverted the plane.

Latest developments

• All passengers and crew members on board were released. They returned to Libya early Saturday, according to Malta’s national security minister, Carmelo Abela.

• The hijackers are being interrogated, Malta’s Prime Minister says.

• The weapons they had were replicas, he says.

• Egypt said the hijackers wanted to land in Alexandria.

The flight, an Airbus A320, took off Friday morning from Sabha, a desert city in southwestern Libya. Hijackers forced the plane to divert to Malta, some 350 kilometers (217 miles) from the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean Sea.

After the aircraft landed late Friday morning, the Maltese military led negotiations with hijackers, who threatened to blow up the aircraft with hand grenades, Foreign Ministry spokesman Etienne St. John said.

Passengers leave the Afriqiyah Airways jet Friday in Malta while negotiations went on with the hijackers.
AP
Passengers leave the Afriqiyah Airways jet Friday in Malta while negotiations went on with the hijackers.

By early Friday afternoon a group of women was allowed to leave the plane. Later, the remaining passengers and crew left, smiling and chatting as they stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat posted details of negotiations in real time on his Twitter account.

The hijackers are probably of Libyan nationality, Muscat told reporters after the standoff ended. The men are in custody and being interrogated, he said. Forensic tests revealed the weapons they had were replicas, Muscat said.

Egypt: We stopped plane from landing here

Before it landed in Malta, the hijacked plane had requested to land at Burj Al-Arab airport in Alexandria, Egypt, the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement.

The Egyptian government didn’t allow the flight to enter its airspace, the ministry said.

Flights delayed

As the situation unfolded, several flights to and from Malta International Airport were delayed, and some were diverted to Italy.

Carmen Nistor, who was waiting for a flight to Munich, Germany, said passengers were frustrated because they hadn’t been informed about the cause of the delays.

Gadhafi loyalists

Sabha, the city where the flight began its journey, has been a center of political tribal violence.

Deadly clashes have erupted there between tribes that were loyal to Gadhafi and anti-Gadhafi groups. Enmity runs deep between the Gaddadfa and Suleiman tribes, the most powerful armed factions in the region.

Gadhafi, who was a member of the Gaddadfa tribe and led Libya for more than 40 years, was ousted and assassinated by rebels in 2011 in the Arab Spring uprising.

Libya has struggled to install a stable government since, and the leadership vacuum has allowed militant groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda to flourish.

CNN’s Natalie Gallon and Bijan Hosseini contributed to this report.