Maltese officials are locked in negotiations with up to two hijackers, described as being from the pro-Gaddafi group Al Fatah Al Gadida, who have seized control of Afriqiyah Airways flight 8U209 in Libya, forcing the Airbus A320 plane to divert to Malta.
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In This Story: Malta
Malta has been inhabited since approximately 5900 BC. Its location in the centre of the Mediterranean has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base.
Malta became a British colony in 1813, and the British Parliament passed the Malta Independence Act in 1964, giving Malta independence from the United Kingdom as the State of Malta, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and queen. The country became a republic in 1974. It has been a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations since independence, and joined the European Union in 2004; it became part of the eurozone monetary union in 2008.
Catholicism is the state religion, but the Constitution of Malta guarantees freedom of conscience and religious worship.