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Libyan jet hijack drama ends in Malta, hostages released



Valletta (Malta), Dec 23 : A Libhyan jetliner hijack drama ended peacefully at Malta International Airport on Friday and all 118 persons aboard were safely rescued, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed in a series of tweets.

A man believed to be from the pro-Gaddafi group Al Fatah Al Gadida hijacked the Airbus A320 aircraft from Tripoli with crew and passengers that included 28 women and a child.

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“Hijackers surrendered, searched and taken in custody,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in a series of tweets.

While the Prime Minister talked of “hijackers”, local media referred to a lone man who commandeered the aircraft.

The hijacker earlier told the crew he was “pro-Gaddafi” and that he was willing to let all 111 passengers leave the Airbus A320, but not its seven crew, if his demands were met, the Times of Malta said.

Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in an uprising in 2011, and the country has been racked by factional violence since.

It was not known what the demands of the hijacker or hijackers were and if it was an act of terrorism or the result of the bitter Libyan political feud.

One German report said they were demanding the release of Saif Gaddafi, the second son of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The claim was confirmed when a hijacker was seen at the aircraft door waving the former green Libya flag.

Prime Minister Muscat earlier confirmed on Twitter that “The #Afriqiyah flight from #Sabha to #Tripoli has been diverted and has landed in #Malta. Security services coordinating operations.”

He added: “It has been established that #Afriqiyah flight has 111 passengers on board. 82 males, 28 females, 1 infant.”

Libya’s UN-backed government confirmed the hijacking and its forced diversion to Malta, Libya’s state news agency LANA reported.

All passengers aboard the plane were in good health, an unnamed official at the Libyan Foreign Ministry told the agency.

“(Libyan) Foreign Minister Mohammed Sayala has immediately started intense contacts with his Maltese counterpart and the government there,” the official added.

Security personnel took up positions a few hundred metres from the plane as it stood on the Malta tarmac.

All flights at Malta International Airport were cancelled or diverted, it said.

The aircraft was flying from Sebha in southwest Libya to Tripoli for state-owned Afriqiyah Airways, a route that would usually take a little over two hours.

The tiny Mediterranean island of Malta is about 500 km north of the Libyan coast.

Passengers waiting in the departure lounge near the gates were being moved towards the open ground by the Schengen Passport area.

The last major hijack incident in Malta took place in November 23, 1985, when an EgyptAir Boeing 737 was diverted to the island nation.

A 24-hour ordeal then ended in a bloody massacre with 62 people dead when Egyptian commandos stormed the plane. Only one of the three hijackers survived and was brought to justice.

Forty-three years ago then Prime Minster Dom Mintoff managed to negotiate the release of 247 passengers and eight air hostesses on board a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, which was also hijacked over Iraq and flown to Malta.

The passengers and air hostesses were released in return for fuel. The plane had been hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. The hijackers eventually surrendered and the plane later left Malta.

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Middle East

Loud explosion heard outside busy hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu

Explosion hits busy road outside popular hotel in central Mogadishu.



Somalia Car Bombing

MOGADISHU: 16 people killed and 20 injured in a bomb attack at the entrance of  Wehliye hotel in Mogadishu. Most of the casualties are auto rickshaw drivers and passengers, according to witnesses.

The death toll is expected to rise.

The attacked was claimed by al-Shabab, Reuters news agency reported, citing the armed group’s military operation spokesman.

Al-Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally recognised government, is frequently carrying out attacks in and around the capital.

More to follow.

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Middle East

Arab Parliament calls for ceasefire in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta

The international community to shoulder its responsibilities and to take “urgent, effective and serious steps” on the ground for the protection of Syrian civilians from the daily bombardment, explosives and poisonous gases.



Eastern Ghouta

Cairo, March 17 (IANS/WAM) Arab Parliament President Meshal Al-Selmi has called for an immediate halt to the continued bombing in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus and in the rest of Syria.

In an urgent cable sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday, Al-Selmi said that the bombing of the city led to the killing and wounding of hundreds of civilians, mostly women and children.

He said that the siege led to the worsening of conditions, leading to more victims due to the lack of food and medicine available to residents.

Al-Selmi said that the daily bombing of civilian populated areas was a “heinous” crime against humanity and ran counter to the rules of the international humanitarian laws and conventions.

He went on to say that the shelling was “unjustified” and amounted to war crimes, calling on the international community to immediately intervene to stop these crimes from continuing.

The Arab Parliament President urged the international community to shoulder its responsibilities and to take “urgent, effective and serious steps” on the ground for the protection of Syrian civilians from the daily bombardment, explosives and poisonous gases.

He renewed his call to the UN Security Council to implement an immediate ceasefire across Syrian territories and the withdrawal of armed forces of all countries interfering in Syrian domestic affairs.

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Middle East

De Mistura renews UN appeal for Syrian truce



Staffan de Mistura

Geneva, March 2 : The United Nations special envoy to Syria said on Thursday that the world body has and will not give up urging the implementation of its resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire in the war-ravaged country.

“We will continue asking until we are red in the face, blue in the face, for both sides… to stop shelling each other’s areas and for convoys to be allowed to get to Eastern Ghouta in particular,” de Mistura told reporters in Geneva on Thursday.

“Otherwise this (Eastern Ghouta) becomes a copy of Aleppo,” de Mistura said, referring to the northern Syrian city that became a major flashpoint in the country’s eight-year civil war.

Civilians have been evacuated from the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area outside Damascus for the first time since daily “humanitarian pauses” began on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

More than 580 people have been killed in Eastern Ghouta since the Syrian government and its allies intensified their bombardments on February 18, according to doctors.

The 393,000 civilians trapped in the enclave, the last major rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus, also face severe shortages of food and medical supplies.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Saturday calling for a 30-day countrywide cease-fire, but it has not come into effect.

The resolution set no firm date for the truce to take effect.

It also excluded attacks on opposition forces identified as terrorists, who make up some of the estimated 580 opposition fighters entrenched in eastern Ghouta.

On Monday, UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, demanded that the ceasefire be brought into effect immediately.

“Eastern Ghouta cannot wait. It’s high time to stop this hell on earth,” Guterres said at the opening of a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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