As 131 passengers looked on in terror, Valery Tolmachev, a 48-year-old Kazakh diplomat who lives in Paris, is said to have held a knife to the throat of an air stewardess and demanded the Paris to Rome flight be diverted to Tripoli.
The incident happened at around 7.30pm soon after flight AZ329 had taken off.
Tolmachev calmly walked up to a female flight attendant and then placed a Swiss Army knife with a 3in blade against her throat, said a police source.
He was dressed all in white and was apparently laughing uncontrollably at times, ordering the pilots to fly to Tripoli, he added.
Tolmachev, who works for a delegation from Kazakhstan which liaises with UNESCO, was then jumped from behind by four other flight attendants, supported by passengers.
They over-powered him and he was held on the floor of the plane. There was a doctor among the passengers and he was able to inject the man with a tranquiliser to calm him down and make him feel drowsy.
'The man grabbed the stewardess from behind her back and pointed the knife. She was in difficulty and tried to turn around,' a passenger named Sofia told reporters.
Stefanie, a French woman who lives in Italy, describing yesterday's incident said the man laughed when the stewardess asked him to go the front of the plane with her.
'He held her for just a few minutes and then the other flight attendants intervened and passengers helped hold the man to the floor,' she said.
After the 'knifeman' was subdued, flight AZ329 landed safely at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport, where he was arrested by police. Read More