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Estranged husband, Bolivian preacher and more: Plane hijackings in past decade

Hijackings like the one on Friday of a Libyan plane have become relatively rare since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States led to increased security.

world Updated: Dec 24, 2016 15:00 IST
Plane hijackings,Libya Plane Hijack,Malta Plane Hijack
A picture taken on December 23, 2016 in Valletta, Malta, shows a group of hostages being released from the Afriqiyah Airways A320 after it was hijacked from Libya. A man who said he was armed with a grenade hijacked a Libyan plane which landed on Malta Friday with 118 people on board.(AFP Photo)

Hijackings like the one on Friday of a Libyan plane have become relatively rare since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States led to increased security.

The hijackers who diverted the plane on Friday to Malta released everyone on board and surrendered. A Libyan official claimed the men had sought asylum, but Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said they had not.

Two men used fake weapons to hijack a Libyan plane with 117 people on board and divert it to Malta. The Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 was en route from Sabha in southern Libya to the capital Tripoli when it was taken over and forced to fly to Malta, sparking a four-hour runway standoff.

While they were initially thought to have used a real grenade and at least one pistol to stage the hijacking, it later emerged that the pair used fake weapons, a Maltese government statement said.

Read: Actual hijacking at Malta airport stops shooting of movie on hijacking

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the two men, probably of Libyan nationality, were arrested. Libyan foreign minister Taher Siala from the fledgling national unity government said the two were supporters of slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi, whose death in 2011 has plunged Libya into chaos.

Other recent hijackings have been carried out by individuals for reasons ranging from personal to political, and almost all ended swiftly and safely. Here are examples from the past 10 years:

Wanted to see ex-wife

A man hijacks an EgyptAir flight on March 29, 2016 from Alexandria to Cairo with 55 passengers and crew onboard, and forces it to land in Cyprus so he can see his ex-wife.

Seif al-Din Mohamed Mostafa, 58, is described as “psychologically unstable” and claims to have explosives strapped to his waist, but gives himself up after releasing fellow travellers.

Maltese special forces soldiers approach a hijacked Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta International Airport.

Asylum seeker

An Ethiopian Airlines flight to Rome with 202 people on board is diverted on February 17, 2014 by its unarmed copilot to Geneva where he asks for asylum.

Hailemedehin Abera Tagegn is arrested, but Switzerland refuses an Ethiopian request for his extradition.

Drunk hijacker

A reportedly drunk man hijacks a flight on February 7, 2014 with 110 people on board from Ukraine’s second city Kharkov to Istanbul.

He brandishes what he claims is a detonator and shouts “Let’s go to Sochi,” Russia, where the Winter Olympics opening ceremony is under way.

The plane is escorted by Turkish F-16 jets to Istanbul where anti-terrorist commandos end the incident without any casualties.

Divine mission to warn Mexico

A Bolivian preacher and former drug addict hijacks on September 9, 2009 an Aeromexico airliner from Cancun to Mexico City with 104 people on board, saying he is on a divine mission.

Presenting sand-filled juice cans with coloured lights as a bomb, Jose Marc Flores Pereira surrenders after the plane lands, with most passengers unaware they had been taken hostage.

The hijacker says he had to warn Mexico it was threatened by an earthquake.

Two hijackers of a Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 surrender to Maltese military on the runway at Malta Airport. ( REUTERS )

Low on fuel

A Sun Air flight carrying 95 people from Nyala in Sudan to Khartoum is hijacked on August 26, 2008 by two men and lands in Kufra, southern Libya after running low on fuel. Almost a day later, the men surrender and the passengers are freed.

Escape out the back

An Egyptian and a Turk who claim to be al Qaeda members hijack on August 18, 2007 an Istanbul-bound Atlasjet flight from the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus with 142 people on board and demand to fly to Iran or Syria.

The pilots land in Antalya, Turkey to refuel, and while women and children are being freed by the front door, most of the other passengers escape through the rear. The rest are released several hours later when the hijackers surrender.

Message to the Pope

An unarmed Turkish army deserter, Hakan Ekinci, seizes on October 3, 2006 a Turkish Airlines flight carrying 113 people from Tirana to Istanbul. The plane is forced by Greek and Italian jets to land in Brindisi, Italy.

Ekinci had forced his way into the cockpit with a parcel that he said was a bomb, and wanted to send a message to Pope Benedict XVI.

He claimed to be a Christian convert and a conscientious objector, and sought to avoid Turkey’s compulsory military service.

First Published: Dec 24, 2016 08:39 IST