The hijacker of an EgyptAir plane diverted to Larnaca surrendered on Tuesday afternoon after a seven-hour stand-off with Cypriot authorities.
“The hijacker has just been arrested,” Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulidis tweeted.
Authorities have determined that the belt worn by the Egyptian man did not contain explosives, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement. “Security in Cyprus confirmed that the explosive belt worn by the man who hijacked the plane was fake,” it said.
Reuters reported that Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the man who hijacked the EgyptAir plane and diverted it to Cyprus was an Egyptian national who had asked to meet European Union officials or to fly on to another airport. Ismail told reporters that authorities would question the hijacker to ascertain his true motives, which remained a mystery. “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.
Cypriot authorities said shortly before the man surrendered that they were dealing with an unstable person. “What we have clarified … is that its not about terrorism. It appears to be a person who is unstable, in an unstable psychological state and the issue is being handled accordingly,” foreign ministry official Alexandros Zenon told journalists.
The passengers from the flight were taken to the old Larnaca airport terminal. The foreign ministry denied that despite information in the media, the area in and around the airport and the Makenzie beach area had been evacuated.
A police spokeswoman told a Cyprus Mail reporter at the airport that a letter in Arabic has been given to the man’s Cypriot ex-wife, said to be named Marina, aged 51 and it was being translated after it was handed to her by the police as per the request of the hijacker. Reports said it also contained a demand for the release of women political prisoners in Egypt but this was not confirmed. The couple are said to have four grown up children, two boys and two girls. The hijacker, identified by the foreign ministry in a tweet as Seif Eldin Mustafa, lived in Cyprus until 1994.
“It is not something which has to do with terrorism,”Anastasiades told reporters earlier. Asked if a woman was involved he said “There is always a woman involved.”
Egypt was sending a plane to Cyprus to pick up stranded passengers, some of whom had been traveling from Alexandria to Cairo for connecting flights abroad.The Cyprus Foreign Ministry said it was in constant contact with the Egyptian authorities throughout the seven-hour ordeal. Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said the plane’s pilot, Omar al-Gammal, had informed authorities in the morning that he was threatened by a passenger wearing a suicide explosives belt and forced him to land in Larnaca. The hijacking occurred in Cyprus‘s flight information region. The plane requested to land at Larnaca Airport saying it was low on fuel.
“We gave our consent because there were about 70 persons on board the aircraft. It landed at Larnaca Airport in an isolated area, under the supervision of the security authorities. Immediately the crises management team was mobilised at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the Ministers of the Interior, Defence, Transport, and Justice gathered, with other competent officials, and the team is handling the situation”, the foreign ministry said.
The plane was an Airbus 320, Egypt’s aviation ministry said.
Passengers on the plane included eight Britons and 10 Americans, three security sources at Alexandria airport said.