UPDATE: #EgyptAir hijack over with no one hurt

UPDATE: #EgyptAir hijack over with no one hurt


A policeman stands guard at Larnaca Airport near a hijacked Egypt Air A320.
Photo: Reuters

[UPDATE: Tuesday , Mar 29 - 9.13pm]

The hijacker, whose motives remained a mystery, was arrested after giving himself up.

Eighty-one people, including 21 foreigners and 15 crew, were onboard the Airbus 320 flight when it took off, Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement.

Conflicting theories emerged about the hijacker's motives. Cypriot officials said early on that the incident did not appear related to terrorism, while the Cypriot state broadcaster said he had demanded the release of women prisoners in Egypt.

Speaking to reporters after the crisis ended, Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the hijacker was an Egyptian national.

"At some moments he asked to meet with a representative of the European Union and at other points he asked to go to another airport but there was nothing specific," he said. The man will now be questioned to figure out what his motives were.

Cypriot foreign ministry official Alexandros Zenon told reporters during the crisis that the hijacker appeared to be "unstable".

Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said the plane's pilot, Omar al-Gammal, had informed authorities that he was threatened by a passenger who claimed to be wearing a suicide explosives belt and forced him to divert the plane to Larnaca.

Photographs shown on Egyptian state television showed a middle-aged man on a plane wearing glasses and a white belt with bulging pockets and protruding wires.

Fethy, the Egyptian minister, said authorities suspected the suicide belt was not genuine but treated the incident as serious to ensure the safety of all those on board.

"Our passengers are all well and the crew is all well... We cannot say this was a terrorist act... he was not a professional," Fethy told reporters after the incident.

In the midst of the crisis, witnesses said the hijacker had thrown a letter on the apron in Larnaca, written in Arabic, asking that it be delivered to his ex-wife, who is Cypriot.

But the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) said the hijacker had asked for the release of women prisoners in Egypt, suggesting a political motive.

[UPDATE: Tuesday , Mar 29 - 5:50pm]

An Egyptian presidential spokesman said the correct name of the EgyptAir Flight 181 hijacker is Seif El Din Mustafa, an Egyptian national. Earlier, the same spokesman said an Egyptian-American dual citizen of a different name was responsible, CNN reported.

[UPDATE: Tuesday , Mar 29 - 5:40pm]

The hijacker’s demands remain unknown, or at least cannot be stated publicly. “Up to now we have not had any effective demands that we can announce,” Egypt’s Minister of Civil Aviation Sherif Fathy Ateyya says.

[UPDATE: Tuesday , Mar 29 - 5:34pm]

BBC News television is saying that the man identified as the hijacker, Ibrahim Samaha, a professor of veterinary medicine, has spoken out to say the reports are wrong and he was one of the passengers, now freed.

Comments purportedly from Samaha and read out by the BBC said passengers initially did not know the plane had been seized. Crew took their passports and they noticed the plane was gaining height rather than descending to Cairo. They were then told they were going to Cyprus, he said, according to The Guardian,

[UPDATE: Tuesday , Mar 29 - 5:28pm]

Egypt is sending plane to Cyrus to pick stranded passengers, Reuters reported.

[UPDATE: Tuesday , Mar 29 - 5:08pm]

The hijacker is identified as Egyptian-US citizen Ibrahim Samaha, an  a professor of veterinary medicine at Alexandria University, Egypt. He demanded a letter be delivered to his ex-wife, who lives in Cyprus, The Guardian reported.

“It is not something which has to do with terrorism,” Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters, according to Reuters.

[UPDATE: Tuesday , Mar 29 - 3:38pm]

Hijacker frees all on board except four foreigners, crew.

    A hijacker seized an Egyptian airliner on Tuesday and diverted it to Cyprus, triggering a hostage crisis at Larnaca airport on the south coast, Cypriot police said.
    Egyptian civil aviation said the hijacker had threatened to detonate an explosives belt.
    The hijacker contacted the control tower at 8.30am (1.30pm HKT) and the plane was given permission to land at 8.50am, Cyprus police said.
    A crisis team was deployed to the airport, the main entry point for tourists to the Mediterranean resort island.
    The hijacker made no immediate demands and later allowed Egyptian passengers to get off the plane, Cypriot state television reported.
    The Egypt Air plane was headed from the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria to Cairo with 81 passengers on board when it was seized, Egyptian civil aviation said.
    The airline tweeted:
    Larnaca is no stranger to hostage crises. Several hijacked planes were diverted to the airport in the 1970s and 1980s. 


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