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Libyan jet hijack drama ends in Malta, hostages released

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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

170 injured in fresh clashes in Palestine

The march of the millions is coming and is expected on May 15. This will be the climax of the Great March of Return.

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File Pic of Palestinians protester

Gaza, May 5 (IANS) Almost 170 Palestinian protesters were injured on Friday in clashes with Israeli soldiers near the border between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel, an official said.

Ashraf al Qedra, a Palestinian Health Ministry spokesperson, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that 170 demonstrators were injured, sustaining gunshots, rubber bullet injuries and gas suffocation.

Eyewitnesses said after Friday prayers, hundreds headed to five different locations along the border. Israeli soldiers using loudspeakers warned the demonstrators, asking them to “Go home for your safety”.

The protestors rolled burning tires to within 500 meters of the fence.

The Israeli military said some 7,000 Palestinians were protesting along the border. When “violent riots” erupted in five locations, it said troops responded with “riot dispersal means” and live fire.

Sallah Abdul Aati, one of the organizers of the rallies, said the protests will continue.

“The march of the millions is coming and is expected on May 15. This will be the climax of the Great March of Return,” he said.

The protests have been held for six consecutive weeks. As Israel celebrates its 70th independence anniversary, the Palestinians are demanding that the Palestinian refugees forced to leave their homes during the Arab-Israeli War in 1948 be allowed to return.

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Middle East

Rouhani warns Trump against walking away from n-deal

I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will react firmly.

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Tehran, April 24 : Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday warned his US counterpart Donald Trump that abandoning a nuclear deal that the Tehran government signed with world powers in 2015 would lead to “serious consequences”.

Speaking live on television, Rouhani said his government had kept its end of the deal and warned Trump not to tear up the agreement, which had also been signed by Russia, China, Germany, the UK and France.

“I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will react firmly,” Rouhani said.

“If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences,” he added.

Trump has said that unless the US’ European allies put right what he has described as “terrible flaws” in the deal by May 12, his government would re-establish economic sanctions on Iran, dealing the pact a major blow, Xinhua news agency reported.

Rouhani stressed that Iran was complying with the deal, as has been confirmed a dozen times by the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose Director General Yukiya Amano said in March that a possible failure of the agreement would be a great loss.

French President Emmanuel Macron was in Washington in an attempt to try and persuade Trump not to walk away from the accord.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday he had agreed with his Chinese counterpart that Moscow and Beijing would try to block any US attempt to wreck the nuclear deal.

Iran has said it would ramp up its nuclear programme if the deal collapses.

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Middle East

Putin warns against further actions violating UN charter

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Vladimir Putin

Moscow, April 16 : Further actions violating the UN charter such as the recent US-led strikes on Syria will result in chaos in international relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over phone on Sunday.

The two leaders condemned Saturday’s airstrikes by the US and its allies on Syria and agreed that it would hinder the process of a political settlement in the war-torn country, according to a Kremlin statement, Xinhua news agency reported.

“It was stated that this illegal action seriously damages the prospects for a political settlement in Syria. Putin in particular stressed that if such actions, carried out in violation of the UN Charter, continue, it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations,” the statement read.

The US, together with Britain and France, launched missile strikes on Syria on Saturday, saying that it was in response to an alleged chemical weapon attack by the Syrian military. The Syrian government has categorically denied the accusation.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the same day held an emergency meeting over the missile attack at Russia’s request but failed to approve a resolution condemning the bombardment.

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