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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Egypt: EgyptAir passenger airplane hijacking in Cyprus is over, the hijacker arrested

Hijacked EgyptAir plane in Larnaca, Cyprus
(Image: Daily Mail)
EgyptAir passenger airplane Airbus 320, flight 181, was hijacked on Tuesday, 29 March, and changed its route to the city of Larnaca, Cyprus. The airplane took off in Borg El-Arab airport in Alexandria and was en route to Cairo early in the morning, as suddenly a man wearing a suicide belt took the control of the airplane and demanded the course to be changed to Cyprus.

The hijacker reportedly demanded first to head to Turkey, but the fuel was not enough, so the airplane had to land in Cyprus, according to the reports of some local media.

As the man was wearing the suicide belt Egyptian aviation and security authorities took the matter extremely serious and cooperated closely with their Cypriot colleagues. Meanwhile, at the moment of the airplane's landing in Larnaca Cypriot anti-terrorist units were deployed to the airport and special security measures were taken.

The man who was later identified as an Egyptian named Seif El-Deen Mostafa took all 88 passengers and 15 crew members hostages. All the passengers including Egyptians, Americans, British citizens, Belgians, Italians and others remained on the board for nearly seven hours, as the negotiations with the airplane hijacker were ongoing.

After the hours of negotiations though the hijacker released most of the hostages except of the crew members and several non-Egyptians who remained on board for a couple of hours more. Later on though the rest of the people kidnapped by the hijacker were also released. Seif El-Deen Mostafa surrendered to the local authorities and was arrested by the police. 

The airplane hijacking left no casualties and victims, and Cypriot security authorities and the state President Nicos Anastasiades stated that the hijacking of the airplane was not a terrorist attack and that Seif El-Deen Mostafa has rather personal and psychological reasons to commit the hijacking. His suicide belt appeared to be fake.

Local media also reported that the man demanded the meeting with his ex-wife who lives currently in Cyprus and who arrived in the airport later that day.

Egyptian security forces and civil aviation authorities represented by the Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi took the matter seriously and decided to treat the possibility of a terrorist attack and a threat of an explosion as the most probable scenario in order to avoid the risks. That is why Egyptian side didn't share the details of the operation till the last moments.

The situation is calm and stable now, as the hijacker really is currently arrested. Cypriot authorities declared that the "hijack was not something that has to do with terrorism", although the exact demands of the hijacker remained unclear. However, nearly two hours before Mostafa surrendered to the police, Cyprus state broadcaster reported he demanded to release the prisoners in Egypt.