EgyptAir flight MS181 hijacker arrested after plane lands in Cyprus

An Egyptian man who hijacked an EgyptAir plane during a routine domestic flight to Cairo and forced it to land on the island of Cyprus on Tuesday has surrendered and was taken into custody after he released all the passengers and crew.
His surrender ended an hours-long drama and standoff at the Larnaca airport in southern Cyprus. The hijacker, who was wearing what appeared to be a belt laden with explosives, had earlier freed most of the passengers but kept seven people — four crew members and three passengers — with him.
Representatives from Egypt's aviation ministry said they determined the belt was fake.
Nikos Christodoulides, spokesman for the Cyprus government, tweeted the news of the arrest. He said all passengers and crew were safe.
The Cypriot Broadcasting Corporation (CYBC) showed one man who appeared to be a crew member climbing out the cockpit window and three more people, dressed in uniform, running down the plane's steps, in live footage from the scene at Larnaca airport. A fifth person was seen leaving the plane shortly after the others.
An unidentified man struggles with another as he climbs out of the cockpit window of the hijacked EgyptAir Airbus A320 at Larnaca Airport in Larnaca, Cyprus, March 29, 2016. (Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters)

Motives unclear, says Egyptian PM

Reuters, quoting Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, says the man is 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.
A man thought to be the hijacker leaves the Egyptair Airbus A320 hours after it landed in Cyprus. (Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters)
Earlier, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said the hijacking was "not something that has to do with terrorism" and a Cyprus government official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the man "seems (to be) in love."
A civil aviation official, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't allowed to disclose details of ongoing negotiations, said the man gave negotiators the name of a woman who lives in Cyprus and asked to give her an envelope. It's unclear what relationship she and the man have.
CYBC reported that the hijacker has an ex-wife in Cyprus.
Anastasiades, appearing alongside European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Nicosia, was asked by reporters whether he could confirm that the incident was about a woman.
"Always, there is a woman" involved, he replied, drawing laughter.
A Cyprus police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to disclose details of the situation, said the hijacker walked off the plane and was taken into custody by special anti-terrorist police. The official said the man wore a belt but there were no explosives in it.
The Cypriot woman who the hijacker had asked to speak to is his former wife with whom he has four children, the police official said. The hijacker had also complained about the current Egyptian government and had demanded the release of female prisoners from Egyptian jails.
The flight took off from the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria en route to Cairo with at least 55 passengers, including 26 foreigners, and a seven-member crew. (Reuters)

Confusion around hijacker's ID

There was also confusion about the hijacker's identity. At a news conference in Cairo, Egypt's civil aviation minister, Sharif Fathi, refused to identify him.
Earlier, Egyptian government spokesman Hossam al-Queish said the hijacker was Ibrahim Samaha, but an Egyptian woman who identified herself as Samaha's wife said her husband is not the hijacker and was on his way to Cairo so he could fly to the U.S. to attend a conference.
The woman, who identified herself only as Nahla, told the Egyptian private TV network ONTV in a phone interview that her husband had never been to Cyprus and that a photo on Egyptian and regional TV channels that supposedly showed the hijacker was not him.
Later, Egypt's state news agency, MENA, identified the hijacker as Seifedeen Mustafa. The name was confirmed by a senior Cypriot official.
The plane landed at the airport in the southern Cypriot city of Larnaca, also on the Mediterranean. A statement from the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry said the foreigners on board included eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, a French national, an Italian, two Greeks and one Syrian. Three other foreigners could not be identified.
The initial batch of passengers released by the hijacker were seen calmly walking off the plane down a set of stairs, carrying their hand luggage, and boarded a bus parked by the plane's side. Security was tight at the airport, with police repeatedly pushing back reporters and TV news crews working just outside the facility's fence, near where the aircraft stopped.
Police also evacuated the nearby Makenzy beach, a stretch of coast close to the airport and popular with tourists. It was not immediately clear why.
An Egyptian aircraft was expected to later fly to Larnaca so it could bring back the released passengers, according to officials.

Questions about Egyptian flight security

An official with flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 said the plane showed no immediate signs of distress. The flight between Alexandria and Cairo normally takes about 30 minutes.
A bus was waiting to carry passengers from the hijacked EgyptAir aircraft after it landed at Larnaca airport on Tuesday. (Petros Karadjias/The Associated Press)
The incident raises more questions about security at Egyptian airports, five months after a Russian aircraft crashed over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula minutes after it took off from Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
All 224 people on board were killed in the crash. Russia later said an explosive device brought down the aircraft and the extremist Islamic State group took responsibility.
Article source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/egypt-air-hijacking-1.3510182
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