ibyan hijackers were armed with a grenade.

Libyan hijackers were armed with a fake grenade.

Steve Creedy -editor

24 Dec 2016

Passengers and crew safe after standoff in Malta.

The hijacked plane. Photo:CNN

Two hijackers are in custody after releasing the passengers and crew from a Libyan Airbus A320 they forced to land in  Malta.

The hijackers had threatened to blow up the plane with a grenade and one had waved a green flag which suggested loyalty to late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, CNN reported.

Flights to Malta were diverted, causing significant delays.

Afriqiyah Airways Flight 8U209 was travelling from Sabha to the Libyan capital of Tripoli with 111 passengers on board when the hijackers struck.

Egyptian authorities said the  Hijacked plane had initially asked to land in Alexandria but had been refused permission to enter the nation’s airspace.

Negotiations took place through Friday and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Twitter early Saturday the hijackers had surrendered, were searched and taken into custody.

CNN said Sahba has been a centre of tribal violence with deadly clashes between factions loyal and opposed to Gadhafi.

The passengers were released in stages, along with two crew members, followed by a further four crew.  

Muscat said the hijackers had been told to surrender any weapons in their possession and had been found to have a hand grenade and a pistol. A search of the aircraft by Maltese armed forces also found a second pistol, he said. He later tweeted that the weapons were replicas.

The Maltese PM said the hijackers were being interrogated and passengers and crew were also being questioned ahead of returning them to Libya.