A man was successfully overtaken by the passengers and crew of an Alitalia flight after he tried to hijack the Rome-bound plane and get it to land in Tripoli.

Valeriy Tolmashev, a 48-year-old man from Kazakhstan, approached a flight attendant and held a nail file (or possibly a small knife) against her neck, ordering the pilot to land the plane in Libya. Four passengers and flight attendants quickly wrestled him to the floor, then secured him in his seat, where the "agitated" Tolmashev was given a sedative.

Sources said Mr. Tolmashev was an adviser to Kazakhstan's delegation at UNESCO, the UN educational, scientific and cultural organisation, in Paris.

It is not known what his motives were. He had no police record or known links with international terrorism, according to Italian investigators.

The flight attendant, "traumatized and slightly bruised in the neck," was treated at the Rome airport. [Herald Sun, photo via Shutterstock]