NEWS that a domestic flight operated by Afriqiyah Airways, a state-owned Libyan airline, has been hijacked and flown to Europe should shock and appal an industry that has, since 9/11, spared no expense to end the scourge of such horrors. Events are still unfolding, but it is clear that two men claiming to have grenades forced the aircraft, an Airbus A320, to bypass its intended destination of Tripoli and fly on to Malta, the tiny Mediterranean island nation situated between Libya and Italy. Few details have emerged about the motives or demands of the hijackers. But, at the time of writing, all passengers and some crew had been released, signalling a peaceful end to the crisis.
Aviation in Libya is a messy affair. Afriqiyah lost one aircraft during the 2011 uprising against Muammar Qaddafi, and another two during the 2014 assault by Islamist militias on Tripoli International Airport. Several other planes are awaiting repairs after that assault, which all but destroyed the capital’s main airport (flights are now operated from the nearby Mitiga Airport, a former military base). Another of Afriqiyah’s planes was supposed to be leased to Turkish Airlines, but has been impounded by militants who object to…Continue reading