The man holding seven people, including three ‘foreigners’, hostage on a passenger jet after hijacking the plane with a suicide vest, has been branded an ‘idiot’ by his foreign ministry.
The hijacker, identified as Seif Eldin Mustafa has asked negotiators at Larnaca airport for political asylum – and demanded to see his Cypriot ex-wife, who has since been brought to the scene.
An Egyptian Foreign Ministry official said in a statement: ‘He’s not a terrorist, he’s an idiot. Terrorists are crazy but they aren’t stupid. This guy is.’
The hijacker, identified as Seif Eldin Mustafa has asked negotiators at Larnaca airport for political asylum – and demanded to see his Cypriot ex-wife
This image shows the moment Seif Eldin Mustafa hands over the letter intended for his ex-wife, as a female airport offical stands with her head in her hands
Released: The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has rubbished claims that Seif Eldin Mustafa is a terrorist, saying: ‘Terrorists are crazy but they aren’t stupid. This guy is’
A picture from the tarmac shows the moment the attacker hands over a four-page letter intended for his ex-wife, as a female airport official stands with her head in her hands.
Airport officials are onboard the plane and have yet to find any explosives, as seven people remain with the hijacker; four crew and three passengers.
While initially not making any demands beyond his ex-wife and asylum, the hijacker has now asked for the release of female prisoners in Egypt, the Cyprus state broadcaster reported.
Egypt’s civil aviation minister Sharif Fathi, said at a press conference that there has been confusion over the identity of the hijacker, after government officials gave the man’s name as Ibrahim Samaha.
However, this was later retracted, with the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs naming him as Seif Eldin Mustafa – and the Egyptian government issuing an apology.
EgyptAir MS181, carrying 62 people, including eight Brits and ten Americans, was en-route from Alexandria to Cairo when it was hijacked, forcing it to land on Cyprus.
Hijacked: The EgyptAir was enroute to Cairo, carrying 62 people – including eight Brits and ten Americans – when it was hijacked by a man in an explosive vest
An official boards a hijacked Egyptair A320 Airbus at Larnaca Airport in, Cyprus, to negotiate with the hijacker
Negotiations with the hijacker has since resulted in the release of a majority of the hostages, except for the crew and four foreigners, EgyptAir said.
The nationalities of the hostages have not yet been confirmed, but The Guardian reported them to be two Brits, one Italian and one Irish man.
The hijacking of the plane, carrying 55 passengers and a crew of seven, was confirmed by EgyptAir on Twitter at 7.40am GMT.
Flight MS181 took off from the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria en route to Cairo with at least 55 passengers, including 26 foreigners, and a seven-member crew.
An official with flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 said the plane showed no immediate signs of distress. The flight between Alexandria and Cairo normally takes about 30 minutes.
Passengers are reunited with their luggage on the tarmac after being allowed off the plane, where the crew and four hostages are reportedly still being held
Egyptian media reports that he ordered the pilot to fly to Turkey but was told they did not have enough fuel
The plane diverted to Cyprus after the captain, Omar Jamal, was alerted to the presence of a passenger who was wearing what appeared to be an explosive belt.
Egyptian newsite Youm7 is reporting that the hijacker ordered the pilot to fly to Turkey but was told they did not have enough fuel.
A statement from the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry statement said the foreigners on board included eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, a French national, an Italian, two Greeks and one Syrian. Three other foreigners could not be identified.
The plane landed at Larnaca airport at around 8.50am (6.50am GMT), police in Cyprus said.
Cypriot government officials said that after the plane landed, the hijackers demanded that police vehicles move away from the aircraft.
The hijacker, believed to be a 27-year-old Egyptian national, continues to hold the crew and four passengers of unknown nationalities hostage on the tarmac
Emergency landing: The Egypt Air jet was en-route from Alexandria to Cairo when it was reportedly hijacked
After leaving Alexandria the plane was diverted from it’s route to Cairo, and flown to Cyprus
Ibrahim Abdel Tawab Samaha was identified as the hijacker by Egyptian government spokesman Hossam al-Queish earlier on Tuesday – a statement which has now been retracted.
The wife of Samaha, a university professor from Alexandria, called Egyptian media to rubbish the claims that her husband was involved.
The woman, who identified herself as Nahla, said her husband, with the same name, is not the hijacker and that he was on his way to Cairo en route to the United States to attend a conference.
She told the private TV network ONTV that her husband had never been to Cyprus and that a photo shown international news purporting to show the hijacker is not her husband.
Questions have been raised as to how the hijacker was able to embark on the plane wearing the suicide vest.
Egyptian authorities promised to tighten airport security in the wake of the downing of a Russian Metrojet airplane in October last year, where all 224 passengers died.
Investigations later found that explosives had been smuggled onto the Airbus A321-231, most likely at Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, which then crashed minutes after it took off from the Red Sea resort.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister David Cameron said British diplomats are on the ground and in touch with Cypriot authorities.
‘The national security adviser is chairing a meeting of senior officials from across Whitehall to review the situation and to get the latest on what we know.
‘There is obviously speculation about the numbers [but] at this stage we are working to establish what the facts actually are and this is one of the things they will be discussing at this meeting of officials.’
‘It’s important that we establish the facts rather than speculate about numbers.’