EgyptAir hijacker arrested-Larnaca airport back in operation
The suspected hijacker of an EgyptAir airliner surrendered to authorities at Larnaca airport in Cyprus on Tuesday, Cypriot authorities said.
The hijacker emerged from the aircraft with his hands in the air, state TV said.
“Its over,” Cyprus’s foreign ministry said in a tweet.
Live television footage showed a total of four people leave the aircraft – with one man seen desperately climbing out of the cockpit window and landing safely on his feet.
Earlier on Tuesday, police in Cyprus had confirmed that a hijacked commercial airliner had landed at Larnaca Airport and negotiations were ongoing with the lone hijacker – said to be a former Egyptian army officer.
The man has been named in the media as being former Egyptian army officer Seif Eldin Mustafa – who was said to have been in a relationship with a woman from Oroklini village.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alexandros Zenon told reporters that Mustafa appeared “mentally unstable”.
Zenon said that, apart from the passengers and the crew, there were also EgyptAir officials on board traveling to Alexandria for a connection flight to another destination.
He noted that the priority was the safe disembarking of all persons on board, and that all measures were being taken to make sure everyone was safe.
The nearby Mackenzie beach strip – situated next to the airport and peppered with cafes, restaurants and beach-goers – had been evacuated due to safety and security reasons.
— Vasso Georgiou (@vgeo_) March 29, 2016
It was later reported on CyBC television that Mustafa was seeking the release of woman currently imprisoned in Egypt. Seeing his estranged wife had been one of his demands in the note he had thrown out of the plane.
The same sources say that his alleged estranged partner and a child had arrived at the airport and that he met with them.
The hijacking of the Egyptair plane, is not linked to terrorism, President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades had said.
Replying to questions on Tuesday, the President said at least 49 of the passengers have been released, noting that the government was doing everything possible for the safe release of everyone on board the plane.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had announced that a ministerial committee had been handling the situation at the National Crises Centre, and that direct contact had been established between the Centre and the Egyptian authorities.
An airport official said the Egyptian airliner took off from Alexandria at around 8am before it was hijacked. When the aircraft was 70 miles south of Cyprus and within Nicosia FIR, the pilot requested to land in Larnaca after reporting the hijacking to the authorities on the island.
— Khaleej Times (@khaleejtimes) March 29, 2016
Reuters had reported that eight Britons and ten Americans were also on board.
The plane had lost contact with Egyptian aviation 30 minutes after taking off.
Unconfirmed reports say that the hijacker had threatened to detonate a bomb on the plane while he also threatened violence against the pilots in the cockpit if they didn’t do as he said. Other reports speak of a belt – packed with explosives – strapped to his body.
The plane was an Airbus A320.
“The control tower at Larnaca Airport was informed at 8.30am that a plane from Egypt had been hijacked,” a police sources told The Cyprus Weekly. “It landed at the airport at 8.50am.”
[Live Update] First photo of hijacked #Egyptair flight #MS181 at Larnaca Airport, #Cyprus with 81 people onboard. pic.twitter.com/Z4HSWCLDiK
— Brendan Grainger (@S118869) March 29, 2016
A hostage crisis team had been assembled at the airport which had been closed off to all air traffic for the time being.
— newsnow (@newsnow_lka) March 29, 2016
This is the second time in the last 30 years that Larnaca Airport has been forced to deal with a hijack situation.
Back in 1988, a hijacked Kuwaiti jumbo jet carrying 55 people landed in Larnaca,hours after taking off from Mashhad airport in Iran.
The Boeing 747 touched down at Larnaca Airport after Damascus Airport in Syria and Beirut airport officials refused to let it land. It later flew out of the airport after refueling.