The Malta Independent 22 January 2021, Friday

2016 Afriqiyah Airways hijacker sentenced to 25 years in prison

Wednesday, 2 December 2020, 16:04 Last update: about 3 months ago

One of the men behind the 2016 hijacking of an Afriqiyah Airways aircraft has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

29-year-old Shah Soko Moussa pleaded guilty to the hijacking last February, and has also been fined €9,990, which will be converted into a prison sentence should it not be paid within a year.

On 23 December 2016, Moussa together with Ali Ahmed Saleh, both from the southern Libyan city of Sabha, had seized the Afriqiyah Airlines Airbus A320 in Libyan airspace and ordered the pilots to divert towards Malta.

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The aircraft had departed Sabha on a scheduled domestic flight to Tripoli.

There were 111 passengers on board – 82 males, 28 females, and one infant – as well as seven crew members.

The men had unsuccessfully tried to storm the locked cockpit of the aircraft, armed with replica weapons and had then threatened to blow up the plane.

During negotiations, the men declared that they were members of a group which supported late Libyan dictator Muammer Gaddafi, who was killed in the 2011 uprisings that characterised the Arab Spring, and that they wanted to promote the group with their actions.

The four-hour stand-off ended when the hijackers emerged from the airliner with their final hostage, a crew member.

There were reports that the duo had demanded political asylum in Malta, however then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat denied this in a press conference held after the ordeal was over, saying that no requests had been made.

Last February, Moussa had pleaded guilty to the charges.

The court solemnly warned him that the charges were terrorism-related and carried with them a possible life sentence.

The court had remitted the acts to the Attorney General for eventual sentencing by the criminal court.

The hijacked plane has since been redeployed on Afriqiyah Airways’ commercial network operations, with the airplane company vowing to help Maltese authorities during investigations.


Photo: Jonathan Borg, 2016

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