EgyptAir hijacker arrested; all hostages free

2016-03-29 16:12
A bus carrying some passengers from the hijacked EgyptAir aircraft as it landed at Larnaca airport. (Petros Karadjias, AP)

A bus carrying some passengers from the hijacked EgyptAir aircraft as it landed at Larnaca airport. (Petros Karadjias, AP)

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Cairo - The hijacker of an EgyptAir passenger jet forced to land in Cyprus on Tuesday has been arrested, and the seven people he held hostage onboard have been freed, Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement.

The plane's pilot and co-pilot, a female flight attendant, a security officer and three passengers had been held as hostages after a man hijacked EgyptAir flight 181 from Alexandria to Cairo, forcing the plane to land at Larnaca International Airport on Tuesday morning, Egyptian Minister of Aviation Sherif Fathy said.

Egyptian state broadcaster Nile News aired TV footage of the hostages jumping outside the plane and reported that a group Egyptian special forces had been sent to Cyprus to help free the hostages.

Negotiations with the hijacker resulted in the release of all people on board except five foreigners and part of the flight crew, the aviation ministry said earlier.

Another Egyptian plane transported the freed hostages to Egypt earlier in the day.

There have been conflicting reports as to the number of passengers who were aboard the plane and the number he held hostage.

Fathy told reporters in Cairo that there had been a total 55 passengers aboard the plane, while earlier reports had spoken of 56 or 81 passengers. Fathy did not clarify if the 55 included crew members.

The minister did not name the hijacker. Nile News previously reported that he was an Egyptian national named Ibrahim Samaha, but in a phone interview with privately-owned ON TV in Egypt, Samaha's wife said he was a passenger among the freed hostages with no links to the hijacking.

The Cypriot Foreign Ministry identified the hijacker on its official twitter account as Seif Eddin Mostafa, who according to Cypriot media made personal as well as political demands.

The hijacker demanded the release of women from the political opposition in Egypt and requested to be granted asylum in Europa, according to state television.

He also asked to speak with his Cypriot ex-wife. Police were looking for the woman in order to take her to the airport.

The demands were written in Arabic in a letter the man dropped out of an aircraft window, which the Cypriot police subsequently translated.

The hijacker of an EgyptAir passenger jet forced to land in Cyprus on Tuesday was wearing a fake explosive belt, Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kassoulidis says.

The hijacker connected several cell phone covers and stuck them along with cables in a sort of belt, which he passed off as an explosive belt, Kassoulidis tells journalists at an airport in Larnaca.

"We were suspicious but wanted to play it safe," he says.

Read more on:    egyptair  |  egypt  |  cyprus  |  air travel

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