EgyptAir Hijacker arrested, explosive belt a fake

Tuesday 29-03-2016 04:45 PM

EgyptAir plane, REUTERS

CAIRO, Mar 29 (Aswat Masriya) – Cypriot authorities have officially announced the arrest of the hijacker of the EgyptAir flight after a seven-hour stand-off, and that all passengers and crew were safe, Egypt's state television reported.

An EgyptAir domestic flight from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked on Tuesday and landed in Cyprus.

Security officials in Cyprus said that the explosive belt worn by the hijacker was a fake, a source from EgyptAir said.

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, forcing him to land in Larnaca.

EgyptAir reported that 55 passengers were on board and a crew of seven.

Cyprus Mail reported that Cypriot foreign ministry official Alexandros Zenon denied the incident can be classified under terrorism. "It appears to be a person who is unstable, in an unstable psychological state and the issue is being handled accordingly," Zenon said.  

A police spokeswoman told Cyprus Mail that a letter in Arabic has been given to the man’s Cypriot ex-wife, allegedly 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. 

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades also told reporters that the incident was not linked to terrorism."

The crisis management centre is currently convened in the Egyptian civil aviation ministry to follow on developments regarding the matter.

An investigative team from the prosecution decided to inspect surveillance cameras present at the Borg al-Arab airport and assigned a team of technical experts to examine its contents.

Director of Borg al-Arab airport Major General Hosni Hassan told the press earlier that all passengers on the hijacked plane were inspected before boarding, noting that everything was documented by the airport's cameras.

Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail stated that the hijacker's demands were unclear – only that he had requested to meet European Union officials and be transported to another airport, state television reported. Ismail added that authorities will interrogate the hijacker to arrive at his true motives.

According to a security course, the identity of the hijacker was established, and his name is Seif el-Din Mostafa.

The hijacking occurred in Cyprus's flight information region and the airliner was diverted to Larnaca. The plane was an Airbus 320.

The incident signals a grim outlook for Egypt's tourism sector, which was already suffering from the aftermath of the crash of a Russian plane in Egypt's Sinai peninsula in October 2015. The plane was heading from the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg in Russia. The crash killed all 224 people on board.

Years of political turmoil have taken a toll on Egypt’s economy, halving the state’s foreign reserves and driving away tourists. 

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