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Malta: Too early to say if plane hijackers had terror ties

Associated Press logo Associated Press 24/12/2016
A man with a green flag is helped out an Afriqiyah Airways plane from Libya standing on the tarmac at Malta's Luqa International airport, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016. Hijackers diverted a Libyan commercial plane to Malta on Friday and threatened to blow it up with hand grenades, Maltese authorities and state media said. (AP Photo/Jonathan Borg) © The Associated Press A man with a green flag is helped out an Afriqiyah Airways plane from Libya standing on the tarmac at Malta's Luqa International airport, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016. Hijackers diverted a Libyan commercial plane to Malta on Friday and threatened to blow it up with hand grenades, Maltese authorities and state media said. (AP Photo/Jonathan Borg)

VALLETTA, Malta — It's too early to say whether the two Libyan men who hijacked a Libyan plane with 117 people on board and diverted it to Malta had any links to terror groups, Malta's police commissioner said Saturday.

The hijackers did not make any demands — not when they were holding the crew and passengers of the Afriqiyah Airways nor after they surrendered themselves to Maltese authorities, police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar said.

Earlier claims coming from the plane's pilot that the two men had demanded asylum in Europe and wanted to create a new political party are being disputed by officials.

The men, who Malta state television TVM said had threatened to blow up the plane with hand grenades, were being held for arraignment while the investigation was ongoing. No time or date has been set for their court appearance.

In addition to questioning the hijackers, police interviewed all the passengers and crew who were on the flight before they returned home to Libya on Saturday on another Afriqiyah Airways plane.

The two Libyan hijackers had diverted the domestic flight Friday, and the standoff ended peacefully after hours of negotiations with the hijackers freeing all 117 people on board and walking off the plane to surrender.

The hijacked aircraft remains on the tarmac of Malta's international airport, guarded by Maltese troops.

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