Hijacker in EgyptAir stand-off had fake suicide belt

‘As far as I am aware, none of passengers was travelling on an Irish passport’ - Flanagan

Passengers and crew are freed and the hijacker is arrested, after an EgyptAir plane flying from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and forced to land in Cyprus on Tuesday. Video: Reuters

 

Four British nationals were on the Egyptian plane forced to divert to Cyprus on Tuesday due to a hijacker who was wearing a fake suicide belt.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan stated on Tuesday evening he did not believe any Irish citizens had been caught up in the hijacking.

Mr Flanagan said he was glad to see a peaceful resolution to the incident at Larnaca airport in Cyprus.

“In the event, my department did not receive any request for consular assistance and, as far as I am aware, none of the passengers was travelling on an Irish passport.”

The captain and crew were congratulated, meanwhile, for how they dealt with the incident, in which a man on board claimed to have an explosive belt and took people hostage.

The plane was carrying 56 passengers, including 26 foreigners, on an EgyptAir domestic flight from Alexandria to Cairo.

Most of those on board were freed shortly after the plane landed at Larnaca airport on the Mediterranean island at 8.50am, before the hijacker held seven people hostage for a number of hours.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are relieved that the situation at Larnaca airport has now come to a safe conclusion. We are providing consular support to four British nationals caught up in today’s events.

“We remain in close contact with the Cypriot and Egyptian authorities.”

Cockpit escape

The man was arrested minutes after some of those being held were seen walking down the stairs of the plane, with another escaping through a cockpit window before they were led away by security officers.

EgyptAir said Cypriot authorities at the airport had confirmed “the explosive belt that the hijacker allegedly said that he was wearing is fake”.

Egyptian minister for tourism Yehia Rashed said: “We congratulate the EgyptAir captain and his crew for landing the plane safely and for putting the safety of the passengers as a priority, in a highly professional manner and in accordance with international aviation standards.

“The Egyptian prime minister, Sherif Ismail, was personally involved in helping to resolve this incident and EgyptAir is currently taking the necessary steps to bring back all passengers involved.

“We are assured by passengers on the flight that all security measures at Borg El Arab Airport were fully implemented.”

Passing through security

Footage posted on the official Facebook page of Egypt’s Ministry of Interior appears to show the hijacker passing through security before boarding the flight.

The man, circled in red, can be seen loading his bag to be scanned and calmly walking through a detector. He is then frisked by a security official before collecting his bag and walking off.

Another image posted on the page shows a scan taken of his bag, which appears largely empty.

Cypriot officials confirmed the incident had reached a peaceful conclusion.

Officials said early on that the hijacking was not an act of terrorism, and later that the man appeared to be psychologically unstable.

The man was said to have initially asked to speak with his Cypriot ex-wife, who police brought to the airport.

At one point he demanded the release of women held in Egyptian prisons, but he then dropped the demand and made others instead.

According to the Guardian, an official at Egypt’s ministry of foreign affairs added: “He’s not a terrorist, he’s an idiot. Terrorists are crazy but they aren’t stupid. This guy is.”

Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency identified the hijacker as Seifedeen Mustafa, without providing further details.

– Agencies