The EgyptAir hijack drama ended today after hijacker Seif Eldin Mustafa surrendered at Larnaca airport. Cyprus foreign ministry said in a tweet that hijack is ‘over’ after security personnel arrested Mustafa.
The hijacker emerged from the aircraft with his hands in the air, local media reported.
It is not about terrorism
Four people were seen leaving the hijacked EgyptAir plane that landed in Cyprus on Tuesday, Cypriot Broadcasting Corporation showed in live footage.
One man climbed out the cockpit window and three more people, dressed in uniform, ran down the plane’s steps, the footage showed.
Tuesday’s hijacking of an EgyptAir airliner which was diverted to Cyprus does not appear to be terror-related, a senior official of Cyprus’s foreign affairs ministry said.
“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 said.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the man who hijacked an 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.
After the aircraft landed at Larnaca airport, the hijacker released everyone onboard except three passengers and four crew following negotiations, Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy said. He declined to give their nationalities.
Eighty-one people, including 21 foreigners and 15 crew, had been onboard the Airbus 320, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement.
The Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) and a private broadcaster, Antenna, said the hijacker was asking for the release of women prisoners in Egypt, suggesting a political motive.
He had also asked to get in touch with European Union officials, CyBC reported, citing a letter of the hijacker. Earlier the Cyprus state broadcaster reported that EgyptAir hijacker demands to see estranged Cypriot wife. Witnesses said the hijacker threw a letter on the apron of the airport in Larnaca, written in Arabic, asking that it be delivered to his ex-wife, who is Cypriot.
The plane remained on the tarmac at Laranca throughout the morning while Cypriot security forces took up positions around the scene.
No explosives on the EgyptAir flight
A Cyprus Foreign Ministry official said he could not confirm the man was rigged with explosives. The hijacking occurred in Cyprus’s flight information region.
However, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said the plane’s pilot, Omar al-Gammal, had informed authorities that he was threatened by a passenger wearing a suicide explosives belt and forced him to land in Larnaca.
According to reports, EgyptAir hijacker is professor of veterinary medicine at Alexandria university. About 60 people, including seven crew, had been on board, Egyptian and Cypriot officials said.
Cairo airport delays departure of New York-bound airplane
Cairo airport today delayed the departure of a New York-bound airplane due to security fears related to a hijacked EgyptAir aircraft diverted to Cyprus, said two security officials.
Keeping in view the situation, Israel today scrambled warplanes in its airspace as a precaution in response to the hijacking, according to an Israeli military source.
Cyprus has seen little militant activity for decades, despite its proximity to the Middle East. A botched attempt by Egyptian commandos to storm a hijacked airliner at Larnaca airport led to the disruption of diplomatic relations between Cyprus and Egypt in 1978.
In 1988, a Kuwaiti airliner which had been hijacked from Bangkok to Kuwait in a 16-day seige had a stopover in Larnaca, where two hostages were killed.