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  1. Libyan passenger plane hijackers surrender
  2. Taken into custody in Malta
  3. All 118 passengers and crew freed
  4. Hijackers 'allied' with Libya's late leader Gaddafi
  5. Muslim clerics defied as Somali women play basketball
  6. Senegal's army 'ready' to topple Jammeh
  7. Nigeria tests show 'fake rice' is genuine
  8. Tunisian Berlin attack suspect 'killed in Milan'
  9. Email stories and comments to - Friday 23 December 2016

Live Reporting

By Clare Spencer, Farouk Chothia and Hugo Williams

All times stated are UK

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Scroll down for today's stories

That's all from the BBCAfrica Live page for this year. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

We'll be back after the festive break on 3 January so please join us then. 

In the meantime, you can keep up-to-date with what's happening across the continent by listening to the Africa Today podcast or checking the BBC News website.

A reminder of today's African proverb: 

The eye is not a guest."

A Nuer proverb sent by Deng Nhial Chioh, Juba, South Sudan, John Youhanes Magok, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Kam Lony, Malaysia

And we leave you with this photo of two workers, dressed in festive outfits, swimming in a fish tank during a show at a marine theme park in South Africa's Durban city:  

two workers, dressed as Santa Claus, swimming in a fish tank during a show at a marine theme park in South Africa's Durban city

Basketball for Somali women 'always popular'

Rage Hassan

BBC Africa

Somalia’s first national women’s basketball tournament in 25 years is into its second day despite a religious edict declaring it “unIslamic”.  

Female basketball players in Garowe, Somalia

The influential Somali Religious Council has said the competition is not in keeping with Somali culture.

Sheikh Bashir Ahmed Salat told the BBC Somali service it was mainly to do with the players' clothing as although they cover up in tracksuits and headscarves, he considered such sportswear inappropriate.

But the autonomous north-eastern Puntland region, which is hosting the tournament in Garowe, dismissed the criticism as “uncalled for”, saying the games would go on as planned.

The tournament has drawn teams from four states and Mogadishu, the capital:

Teams sitting at the Somali national women's basketball competition

At one time, hardline Islamists who took power banned women from sport, but as a UN-backed administration has begun to reassert its authority over the last few years, women and girls are increasingly returning to the court.

“Before the civil war, we used to play basketball. After the country went into ruins, so too did women’s most popular sport, basketball,” says Suad Abdulahi Galoow, a former basketball player who has returned from the US to help basketball reclaim it lost glory.

“From 2006 and especially when extremist ideology started to spread here, women and girls were banned from sports.”

But she says women's basketball is now thriving in Mogadishu where there are several different local leagues.

Suad Abdulahi Galoow
Former basketballer Suad Abdulahi Galoow says the game was always popular with Somali women

Hijacked plane passengers questioned

Maltese authorities are questioning the more than 100 passengers freed from the hijacked Libyan plane and and are doing security checks in case a hijacker is among them, Libya's Transport Minister Milad Matouq is quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying. 

Back in Libya, friends and relatives have been waiting anxiously to hear from the passengers, who will be flown back to Libya once investigations end: 

Men wait for their relatives who were abroad an airliner that was hijacked and forced to land in Malta, at Mitiga International Airport, east of Tripoli, Libya, December 23, 2016

Video shows Libyan hijacker arrested in Malta

Here's some of the arrest of Libyan plane hijacker by Malta's security forces: 

Video shows Libyan hijacker arrested in Malta

Relief for special envoy after hijacking ends peacefully

The UN special envoy for Libya has tweeted: 

View more on twitter

UN fails to impose arms embargo on South Sudan

The UN Security Council has rejected a US-sponsored resolution to impose an arms embargo and sanctions on South Sudan, despite warnings of a possible genocide in the country. 

The resolution garnered seven votes of the 15-member council, falling short of the nine required for approval. 

Eight countries - including Russia, China and Japan - abstained.  

Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers stand on a pick up truck on their way to the river side to ride on a boat on the Nile, as they head to Alole, northern South Sudan, on October 16, 2016.
South Sudan has been hit by conflict since 2013

Fighting between forces loyal to South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar broke out in December 2013, plunging the country into civil conflict that is still ongoing. 

Writers and artists on hijacked plane

The head of Libya's state-run culture agency says a total of 25 artists, writers, and intellectuals from southern Libya were among the 111 passengers on the hijacked plane, the Associated Press news agency reports

They were heading to the capital, Tripoli, to take part in a cultural forum when the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 was hijacked by two men and diverted to Malta. 

Maltese special forces soldiers approach the hijacked Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta International Airport, December 23, 2016.
Maltese special forces soldiers approach the hijacked plane Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta International Airport, December 23, 2016.

Libya minister defends airport security

Libya's transportation minister has been defending security at airports in the North African state after a plane was hijacked and diverted to Malta. 

Milad Matouq said security breaches happen everywhere and Libya was no exception, the AP news agency quotes him as saying. 

He added that this is the first such incident since the 2011 uprising, which led to the overthrow of long-serving ruler Muammar Gaddafi.   

Daniel Amokachi in Nigeria cash-to-play claims

Oluwashina Okeleji

BBC Sport

Daniel Amokachi

We'll bring you more details on the plane hijacking as they come in but for now let's turn our attention to football.... Former Nigeria captain Daniel Amokachi has said the practice of local coaches being bribed to invite players onto the country's national teams is endemic.

Despite no one being found guilty of the accusation, there have long been suspicions it happens in Nigeria.

"Agents always come to give money for their players to be invited to camp," said Amokachi. "Does it have to be so?"

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has asked Amokachi to produce evidence to support his claims.

The 43-year-old, who won the Africa Cup of Nations as a player in 1994, says it is time people spoke up about an issue that he says has long bedevilled the Nigerian game.

"We know this thing has been going on for a while but we have to voice it," the current manager of Finnish second tier side JS Hercules told BBC Sport.

Read the full BBC Sport story

Libyan airport security 'lax and chaotic'

Rana Jawad

BBC North Africa correspondent, Tunis

A picture taken on August 26, 2014, shows bullet casing and damaged airplanes on the tarmac at Tripoli international airport in the Libyan capital after fighters from the Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) coalition captured the airport from Zintan force, allies of rogue general Khalifa Haftar.
The main airport in Libya's capital Tripoli has been hit by fighting

Airport security in Libya is as lax and chaotic as the country's politics. 

Various armed groups who do not have any particular allegiance to any Libyan administration control them all.

Over the years there have been several incidents that passengers have become accustomed to, which often go unreported. 

Rival armed groups can delay planes by driving on the runway or even temporarily boarding the aircraft if they have a particular demand or a personal axe to grind.

The capital Tripoli's main airport was burned down during the 2014 rival militia clashes to control it.

Libyans already have trouble flying out of their own country and cannot travel directly to any European country. 

European airspace has been closed to all flights from Libya for over two years. 

The latest incident will undoubtedly dash any hopes that a change in that reality will take place any time soon.

Hijackers gave up 'peacefully'

The two young Libyan who hijacked a passenger plane surrendered peacefully without making any conditions after the Maltese government insisted that all passengers had to be released, Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said at a press conference. 

Female crew members leave the hijacked Afriqiyah Airways A320 airplane at the Malta International Airport in Luqa, Malta, 23 December 2016
Female crew members leave the hijacked Afriqiyah Airways A320

The plane was hijacked while flying from the oasis city of Sebha to the capital, Trip, a trip which usually takes just over two hours. 

It was diverted to Malta, some 500 km (300 miles) north of the Libyan coast.

'All's well that ends well' - Malta president

Maltese PM: Hijackers were armed

Maltese prime minister stands at lectern
The Maltese prime minister said the passengers would be sent back to Libya

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has told a press conference that the two hijackers were "probably of Libyan nationality".

He said that they were told that no negotiations would be entertained until all passengers had been released. 

He added:

They were asked to surrender any weapons in their possession. They were found to be in possession of a hand grenade and a pistol. Nevertheless the armed forces of Malta are currently conducting a full search of the aircraft and a second pistol has been found so far. The search is ongoing.

The two hijackers have been detained in custody and interrogations are ongoing.

The rest of the crew ad passengers are also being questioned to ascertain events."

The passengers and crew would be flown back to Libya on another Afriqiyah aircraft after questioning was finished, he added.

Watch how hijackers surrendered in Malta

A newspaper in Malta has tweeted: 

View more on twitter

'Nobody injured' during hijacking

Malta's government has confirmed that the hijackers did not harm any of the 118 passengers or crew of the Airbus A320 which was seized earlier today after taking off from the Libyan oasis city of Sebha:

View more on twitter

Hijacker 'born in Libya in 1989'

An independent journalist has tweeted details of one of the young Libyan men who hijacked a passenger plane after take-off in the oasis city of Sebha (spelt Sabha below) and diverted it to Malta:  

View more on twitter

All the 118 passengers and crew were freed, apparently unharmed, ending a stand-off of almost four hours. 


Maltese PM to address media after plane hijack

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will be addressing the media shortly, according to his communications chief:

View more on twitter

It hasn't started yet, but when it does you can follow a live video stream of the press conference below:

View more on facebook

Congo deal drawn up

BBC World Service

In other news... Negotiators in the Democratic Republic of Congo have drawn up an agreement to try and ensure a smooth transition of power. 

The talks - brokered by the Catholic Church - follow the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to step down after two terms in office. 

Under the deal, President Kabila will stay in power until elections at the end of next year. 

A new prime minister will be chosen from the opposition and the deal will be overseen by the veteran opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi. 

A government spokesman said the proposal would be presented to the full delegation at the talks later today. 

Mr Kabila's refusal to step down and the postponement of elections have sparked violent street protests. 

A man is arrested by a member of the military police after people attempted to block the road with rocks, in the neighbourhood of Majengo in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, on 19 December, 2016
Security forces have been accused of using excessive force to end protests

Photos of hijackers

Here are some dramatic photos of the two men who hijacked the Libyan passenger plane with 118 people on  it: 

Two hijackers of a Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 surrender to Maltese military on the runway at Malta Airport, December 23, 2016
wo hijackers of a Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 surrender to Maltese military on the runway at Malta Airport, December 23, 2016.
Two hijackers of a Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 surrender to Maltese military on the runway at Malta Airport, December 23, 2016.

Hijackers 'initially wanted to go to Italy'

The pilot of the Libyan Airbus A320 says the hijackers first asked him to fly to Rome, before he landed in Malta,  the Libya Channel TV network is reporting. 

Pilot Ali Milad named the two hijackers as Libyan nationals Moussa Shaha and Ahmed Ali.

The men were seeking political asylum and said they wanted to form "the New Fateh".  

Fateh is a reference to former Libyan ruler Mummaar Gaddafi, who led what was known as the Fateh revolution after he staged a coup in 1969.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi arrives at Ciampino airport on August 29, 2010 in Rome, Italy.
Col Gaddafi was killed in 2011

Row in Nigeria over 'plastic rice'

'Plastic rice'
The Customs Service had said the rice was very sticky when cooked

Now let's look at other news - Nigeria's food safety agency has denied claims by the health minister that it has cleared the reported "plastic" rice.

A senior official at the National Agency For Food and Drugs (Nafdac) said the minister's Twitter statement "is not their position".

Health Minister Isaac Adewole had tweeted that preliminary tests by the agency found "no evidence" of plastic material.

About 2.5 tonnes of the "plastic" rice has been confiscated.

See earlier post for more details

Maltese troops enter hijacked plane

Malta's security forces have entered the Libyan passenger plane after the hijackers surrendered, and freed all 118 people on board, as this journalist tweets:

View more on twitter

Did hijackers have 'fake bomb'?

An independent journalist is tweeting that the plane hijackers might have had a "fake bomb": 

View more on twitter
View more on twitter

Hijackers handcuffed

 The two men who seized control of the Airbus A320 aircraft in Libya are reported to have been taken away in handcuffs at the airport in Malta.

Earlier, one of them came out of the plane to wave the old Libyan flag: 

An Afriqiyah Airways plane stands on the tarmac at Malta International airport as an unidentified man waves a flag

BreakingHijackers 'surrender'

The hijackers have surrendered, Malta's prime minister has tweeted:

View more on twitter
View more on twitter

Hijackers are 'in their twenties'

The spokesman for the UN-brokered government in Libya says there are two hijackers, and they are in their twenties, the Associated Press news agency reports. 

The men are seeking politcal asylum in Europe, Ashraf al-Tulty said. 

He added that negotiations with the men, who have hand grenades, are continuing. 

A picture taken on December 23, 2016 in Valletta, Malta, shows a crew member helping one of the hostages to disembark from the Afriqiyah Airways A320 after it was hijacked from Libya
Most of the passengers have been released

Libyan mayor acknowledges security 'poor'

The mayor of Sebha, the town in south-western Libya where the hijacked plane took off, has acknowledged to the BBC that security at the airport "isn't good". 

There is a distance of about five kilometres (three miles) of open space, from the airport building to the runway which is poorly monitored, says BBC North Africa correspondent Rana Jawad. 

Hijacker 'promotes new political party'

A Libyan TV channel says it is interviewing one of the hijackers live on air now. 

It is tweeting what it says are some of his comments:  

View more on twitter
View more on twitter

Hijacker 'heads pro-Gaddafi party'

The hijacker of the Libyan passenger plane diverted to Malta has told Libyan TV that he is the head of a party allied with Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader who was killed by Nato-backed forces during the 2011 uprising against his rule, Reuters news agency reports.     

Almost all passengers freed

People disembark from a hijacked Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 on the runway at Malta Airport, December 23, 2016

  • Almost all the people aboard a hijacked Libyan aircraft that was forced to land in Malta have been allowed to leave the plane 
  • It's unclear whether there are one or two hijackers involved 
  • When the Maltese authorities contacted the plane they were told passengers would be allowed to go free if their demands were met 
  •  It's not entirely clear what they are, or whether they've been met 
  • There were 118 passengers and crew on the flight when it was diverted to Malta while on an internal flight in Libya.   

Maltese government plugs tech scene amid hijacking

The Maltese government has been tweeting the latest updates from Prime Minister Joseph Muscat about the ongoing hijacking situation. 

But with the eyes of the world on the small island nation, someone in the social media department has obviously thought it would be a good idea to retweet an article about Malta being "the next big tech hub":

Tweets show PM's hijacking updates, then RT of Forbes' article about Malta's tech landscape
Twitter grab

Hijacker emerges waving Gaddafi flag

An independent journalist has taken a grab from the live video feed of the hijacked plane, with footage appearing to back earlier reports that the hijacker or hijackers were supporters of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi:

View more on twitter

'Poor security' at Libyan airports

The BBC's North Africa correspondent has been tweeting about the lack of security at Libyan airports, following the hijacking of a plane flying from the oasis city of Sebha to the capital Tripoli:  

View more on twitter

Further 44 passengers being released

Maltese prime minister tweets:

View more on twitter

Add that to the 65 confirmed a few minutes ago and it makes 109 passengers. 

Earlier reports said that there were 111 passengers, plus seven crew on board.

Hijacker 'seeking asylum'

The mayor of the Libyan city of Sebha, where the hijacked plane left from, says preliminary information indicates that the hijacker is seeking political asylum in Malta. 

The mayor stressed that this has not yet been confirmed. He said there was one hijacker, while other reports put the number at two. 

He named the hijacker as Musa Sha, but there is no independent confirmation of this. 

Hijackers' demands 'not clear'

The demands of the two grenade-carrying men who hijacked the Libyan plane are not clear, according to a Libyan MP who spoke to passengers on board, Reuters news agency reports.

Sixty-five passengers now released

Maltese PM tweets:

Plane hijacking 'stops filming of another hijacking'

Filming for a movie about a plane hijacking in Uganda about 50 years ago was halted this morning after the hijacking of the Libyan Airbus A320, which landed in Malta.

That's according to the Mayor of Lija in Malta, who was speaking to BBC World TV.

In 1976, Israeli forces freed 105 hostages in a surprise raid at Entebbe airport, killing about eight hostage-takers and 20 Ugandan troops.

Read more about the Entebbe raid:

Entebbe pilot Michel Bacos 'saw hostage murdered'

Entebbe: A mother's week of 'indescribable fear'

Israeli hostages on their return to Israel after Operation Entebbe on 3rd July 1976
Israeli hostages on their return to Israel after Operation Entebbe on 3rd July 1976

Release of 25 more passengers underway - Malta PM

Malta's prime minister is tweeting that more people are being released from the hijacked Libyan plane:

View more on twitter