An EgyptAir plane was hijacked and taken to Cyprus on Tuesday. As per the latest reports, the alleged hijacker was held by the authorities even as all the passengers escaped unharmed. In fact, before the drama ended, most of the passengers were allowed to exit the aircraft safely in Cyprus.
Officials said the hijacking was not linked to terrorism as the hijacker sought to see a Cypriot woman, his estranged lover who lives on the island.
The plane with 55 passengers on board was flying from the Egyptian city of Alexandria to the capital Cairo when it was captured. Passengers included 21 foreigners including 8 Americans.
“The hijacking is not terrorism-related,” Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said.
The EgyptAir plane landed at the airport in the coastal city of Larnaca at 8:50 am after the hijacker had contacted the control tower 20 minutes earlier to demand the diversion.
Egyptian civil aviation said the hijacker had threatened to detonate an explosives belt on the Airbus flight number MS181, which was headed to Cairo.
Most of the passengers were allowed to disembark after the plane landed. Egypt’s aviation minister Sherif Fathy told a press conference that the captain, a co-pilot, an air hostess and a security guard remained on board, along with three passengers.
EgyptAir had previously said that negotiations with the hijacker” had resulted in “the release of all the passengers, except the crew and four foreigners.”
Fathy further added that the hijacker had demanded it land in either Turkey or Cyprus.
“He had no gun or anything. We don’t know yet whether his (explosives) belt is real but for the safety of passengers we are dealing with it as real,” Fathy added.
Egyptian state television identified the lone hijacker as an Egyptian man called Ibrahim Samaha.
Cyprus’s Sigma television reported that the woman, who the hijacker wanted to see had been brought to the airport from her home village of Oroklini, accompanied by a young child.
Cyprus state radio had earlier reported that the man was demanding asylum and had asked for a translator.
(With inputs from agencies)