Egyptian hijacker in custody after hours-long standoff

BY    | Updated: Mar 30, 2016 at 8:30 AM
A man climbs out of the cockpit window of  the hijacked EgyptAir Airbus A320 at Larnaca Airport in Cyprus on March 29. Photo by Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters

A man climbs out of the cockpit window of the hijacked EgyptAir Airbus A320 at Larnaca Airport in Cyprus on March 29. Photo by Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters

An Egyptian man who hijacked a passenger airplane and forced it to land in Cyprus gave himself up to authorities Tuesday after holding seven people on board for several hours.

He surrendered at the Larnaca airport in southern Cyprus after earlier freeing most passengers. He kept three of the passengers and four crew members for five hours before letting them go as well.

“All passengers and crew are safe,” said Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi, reported the Associated Press.

The man’s motives were unclear, but Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said the hijacking was not terrorism-related.

EgyptAir flight MS181 took off Tuesday morning from the coastal city of Alexandria, Egypt, bound for Cairo with 55 passengers and seven crew members. The man apparently diverted the plane to Larnaca airport, and most passengers were seen walking down the stairs from the airplane with their luggage. They boarded a bus that was waiting beside the aircraft.

An unnamed Cyprus police official told the AP the man who apparently hijacked the plane was wearing a suicide belt but no explosives were on it. The official said the man had asked to speak with his former wife and also demanded the release of women from Egyptian jails.

His ex-wife visited the airport and helped convince him to surrender, according to state media, the New York Times reported.

The hijacker was later identified as Seifedeen Mustafa, an Egyptian living in Cyprus, which was confirmed by Cypriot officials. He was seen walking off the airplane with his hands raised.

One of the passengers, Ben Innes, had his picture taken with the alleged hijacker. “I figured if his bomb was real I’d nothing lose anyway, so took a chance to get a closer look at it,” Innes said.

Among the passengers were 26 foreigners including Americans, Britons, Dutch, Belgians, French, Italian, Greeks and a Syrian. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Another Egyptian airplane will fly to Larnaca to retrieve the passengers, authorities said.

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