An attempt to hijack an Alitalia plane from Paris to Rome has been averted mid-air by brave cabin staff and passengers.
Italy's Ansa news agency said the would-be hijacker was armed with a small knife and wanted to divert the plane to Libya. He was thought to be from Kazakhstan but working in Paris.
The incident took place on the evening of Easter Sunday on a flight from Paris to Rome with 131 passengers on board. Alitalia identified it as flight AZ 329 which had taken off from Paris at 8.24pm local time.
The airline said in a statement: 'A passenger in an evident state of agitation assaulted a flight attendant, demanding that the flight be diverted to Tripoli.
'Thanks to the swift intervention of the other flight attendants the attacker was restrained in his seat and the flight continued towards Rome Fiumicino where it landed normally at 21.55.'
Passengers on the plane described the terrifying incident to reporters after they landed.
'The man grabbed the stewardess from behind her back and pointed the knife,' said one. 'She was in difficulty and tried to turn around.'
Another passenger said the man laughed when the stewardess asked him to go to the front of the plane with her.
Ansa reported that, after he was immobilised, the would-be hijacker was sedated by a doctor who was among the passengers. The crew radioed ahead to alert the police who escorted the man from the plane.
He is reportedly being interrogated by officers of the Italian frontier police. The flight attendant who had been seized was taken to a first aid post, but she was found not to have been seriously hurt in the incident.
Most major airlines, including Alitalia, have suspended flights to Tripoli since the revolution against the regime of despot Colonel Gaddafi began in February. It is not clear what motive the man had for the attempted hijacking.
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