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On Malta, Libyan Plane's Hijackers Surrender After Hours Of Negotiations

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's walk through how the hijacking of a Libyan plane began and ended today. The hijacker has been arrested, and all the passengers and crew have been safely released today on the Mediterranean island of Malta, which is where we find reporter Kyle Vidal, who's with iNews Malta. Would you remind us how this started? This wasn't a plane that was heading for Malta at all at the beginning, was it?

KYLE VIDAL: Hi. No, it wasn't heading to Malta. It was heading to - it was an intended flight in Libya, and it wasn't supposed to land in Malta. But unfortunately, at about 11:30, reports circulated on the island that there was a potential hijacking transpiring above Malta. In fact, maybe five minutes after the reports, the prime minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, confirmed via Twitter, confirmed the news that there were two hijackers who are threatening passengers and the cabin crew on board, that they were about to explode the airplane.

INSKEEP: And, of course, we don't know if they had the capacity to do that or not. But the plane landed in Malta and sat there for a while. And what have the last several hours been like?

VIDAL: Yes, yes. It sat for about five hours. In fact, the hijacking ended about an hour ago. So it was five hours of back-and-forth negotiations between the Libyan government and there was the minister - the transport minister - the Libyan transport minister who was negotiating directly with both the prime minister of Malta as well as the armed forces of Malta and - who was being led by Mr. Curmi, Jeffrey Curmi.

INSKEEP: Did you say the Libyan transport minister was involved in the negotiations here?

VIDAL: Yes. According to medias, both local media and international media, at some point, the minister - the transport minister was in negotiations. Yes, he was helping. And there was also contact.

INSKEEP: So this involved law enforcement on Malta. It also involved the Libyan government. They're talking with the hijackers on the plane for hours. Any idea at this point what the hijackers wanted?

VIDAL: So basically according to media, the hijackers, which we should say that they are Suha Moussa (ph) and Ahmed Ali who, at the moment, they have been arrested. Their main aim was to - they demanded a pro-Gadhafi party since they are pro-Gadhafi supporters. In fact, this was confirmed when...

INSKEEP: I'm sorry. I'm not quite following. They demanded what again did you say?

VIDAL: They demanded a pro-Gadhafi party.

INSKEEP: Oh, oh, they were supporting a party in Libya that is still supportive of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

VIDAL: Yes, Moammar Gadhafi, exactly. And in fact, one of the hijackers, at one point, he was seen on national television holding a Jamahiriya flag, the green flag which was synonymous with the Gadhafi era.

INSKEEP: In the end, though, they gave up and walked off the plane.

VIDAL: Yes, they did. They did give up eventually, and they were escorted down the plane by the crew. And eventually the armed forces of Malta, which they performed an excellent job today, alongside the police force, the Maltese police force.

INSKEEP: OK.

VIDAL: And they arrested both hijackers, yes.

INSKEEP: Kyle Vidal, a journalist with iNews in Malta, thanks very much for the update, really appreciate it.

VIDAL: It was my pleasure. Thank you very much. And all the best for the festive seasons.

INSKEEP: Indeed, indeed, and everybody is safe after the hijacking that ended on the island of Malta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.