Man who hijacked EgyptAir flight had fake explosives

All hostages from the plane are now said to be safe

hijacked, passenger, plane, cyprus, airport, egypt, egyptair

Police officers stand guards by the fence of the airport as a hijacked EgyptAir aircraft is seen after landing at Larnaca Airport in Cyprus | Image: Petros Karadjias / AP/Press Association Images

A hijacker strapped with fake explosives has been arrested in Cyprus after several of his hostages fled the plane.

Egyptian national Seif Eldin Mustafa emerged from the aircraft with his hands aloft after a stand-off lasting eight hours.

The Cypriot foreign minister tweeted: "It's over. The #hijacker arrested".

His surrender came minutes after a man in uniform was filmed escaping from the cockpit window.

The remaining seven hostages were then seen leaving the plane in two separate groups - the latter running. All are safe.

Within an hour it was established that the suicide belt the hijacker was wearing was fake.

"This is not about terrorism," said the foreign ministry. "This is about the individual action of a person who is psychologically unstable".

The hijacker took over the EgyptAir jet during an internal flight from Alexandria to Cairo at about 8.30am (5.30am Irish time), leading the plane to be diverted to Larnaca Airport in Cyprus.

As the news emerged the Cypriot Civil Aviation Ministry said "a passenger wearing a suicide belt told (the pilot) he had an explosives vest".

Nearby Makenzy Beach, which is popular with tourists, was evacuated while negotiations went on, while police snipers trained on the jet.

Flight MSR181 had been carrying 55 passengers, and though earlier reports suggested one Irish citizen was aboard, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it does not believe any Irish passport-holders were on the flight and it hasn't received any request for consular assistance.

 

The hijacker allowed most to disembark but the crew and four foreigners were kept on board.

There were reports he had asked to see his ex-wife, who was said to live in the nearby village of Oroklini.

Witnesses told state TV they saw Mustafa throw a letter on to the tarmac and demand it be delivered to his estranged wife.

Larnaca Airport closed

However, the Cypriot state broadcaster reported the hijacker wanted female prisoners in his native Egypt to be released.

Mustafa is thought to be in his late 50s and runs a food company.

Egyptian prime minister Sherif Ismail said his motives remained unclear.

"At some moments he asked to meet with a representative of the European Union and at other points he asked to go to another airport but there was nothing specific".

The nationalities of those who were held have not been revealed.

Some 26 foreigners were also on board including eight Americans, four Dutch, two Belgians, a French national, an Italian, two Greeks and one Syrian.

Larnaca Airport has been closed and flights diverted to Paphos, while Egypt is sending a plane to collect stranded passengers.

Israel scrambled warplanes in its airspace as a precaution in response to the hijacking.

The incident calls into question air security in Egypt five months after a Russian plane crashed over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board.

Russia said a bomb brought down the plane and the attack was claimed by IS.