CAIRO, Mar 29 (Aswat Masriya) – Egypt's interior ministry said Tuesday that the hijacker of the EgyptAir flight has a criminal record involving cases of forgery, impersonation and theft.
An EgyptAir domestic flight from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked on Tuesday and landed in Cyprus. EgyptAir reported that 55 passengers were on board along with a crew of seven.
Earlier this morning, Egypt’s Ministry of Civil Aviation said the plane’s pilot, Omar al-Gammal, had informed authorities that he was threatened by a passenger wearing a suicide explosives belt, forcing him to land in Larnaca.
Following a seven-hour stand-off, Cypriot officials announced the arrest of the alleged hijacker and confirmed the safety of everyone on board. The passengers were later released.
It was later announced by security officials in Cyprus that the suspect was wearing a "fake" explosive belt.
The hijacker's identity has been established to be Seif al-Din Mostafa, aged 61, according to the interior ministry's statement.
The ministry added that the hijacker was previously sentenced to a year in prison in a forgery case; however he escaped jail in January 2011. Authorities were able to track him down, forcing him to complete his prison sentence, which ended in January, 2015.
Footage from the surveillance cameras at the Borg al-Arab airport indicates that the hijacker was inspected "according to international standards" via X-ray in addition to the personal inspection of his belongings, the ministry said.
Sources from the civil aviation ministry said that airport security had confiscated a lighter from the hijacker prior to boarding the plane, adding that he was personally inspected several times.
An investigative team from the prosecution had decided to inspect surveillance cameras present at the Borg al-Arab airport and assigned a team of technical experts to examine their 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.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters earlier today that the incident was not linked to terrorism." Cypriot foreign ministry officials made similar remarks.