Larnaca (Cyprus): An EgyptAir plane was hijacked on Tuesday while flying from the Egyptian Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria to the capital, Cairo. The Egyptian man was arrested after hours of negotiations during which most passengers were freed and the last of the seven on board escaped.
Egypt Air Airbus A-320 sits on the tarmac of Larnaca aiport after it was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus. Pic/AFP
The Cyprus foreign ministry announced the arrest of the hijacker, who had taken charge of the Airbus 320 when it was on its way from Alexandria to Cairo saying he was armed with explosives. The plane was flown to Larnaca in southern Cyprus.
The plane took off from the small Bourg el-Arab airport just outside the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. It was flying a regular route to Cairo, a flight that normally takes up to 30 minutes. The Airbus flight number MS181 had 56 passengers on board and was flying on a regular route when the hijacking took place, the Egyptians said.
Shortly after the hijacking, the plane landed at the airport in the southern Cypriot city of Larnaca, also on the Mediterranean.
BBC said Flight 181 carried 56 passengers -- 30 Egyptians and 26 foreigners -- and six crew members. Soon after it reached Cyprus, all but seven passengers and crew were let off.
A man climbs out of the cockpit window an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 parked at the tarmac of Larnaca airport after being hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016. Pic/AFP
They quickly boarded buses to reach the terminal. EgyptAir said a special plane will bring them back to Egypt.
The foreigners on board included eight Americans, four Britons and four Dutch citizens, two Belgians and two Greeks, a French national, an Italian and a Syrian. Three other foreigners could not be identified.
Earlier, Egypt's civil aviation minister Sherif Fathy said the seven still on board the jet included the pilot, the co-pilot, a female stewardess, a security officer and three passengers whose nationalities were not revealed. Fathy said negotiations with the hijacker were continuing but it was not clear whether the man indeed had explosives or was lying.
The Egyptian aviation ministry had earlier said the hijacker had threatened to detonate an explosives belt, forcing the captain to divert the flight to Cyprus.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters the incident appeared to be motivated by personal reasons. "The hijacking is not terrorism-related," he told a joint news conference with the visiting president of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz. Asked about reports that the hijacker had demanded to see a Cypriot woman, Anastasiades said: "Always there is a woman." Cyprus's Sigma television reported that the woman had been brought to the airport from her home village of Oroklini, accompanied by a young child.
Cyprus state radio had earlier reported that the man was demanding asylum and had asked for a translator. A crisis team was deployed to the airport, the main entry point for tourists to the Mediterranean resort island.
The plane was parked on the tarmac away from the new terminal building but just 200 metres from a beach where dozens of foreign tourists were out. The aircraft was cordoned off by armed police.
The airport was closed during the crisis with incoming flights diverted to Paphos on the island's western edge. The Cyprus foreign ministry said 'crisis management plans' had been put in place and that the country's National Crisis Centre had been in contact with Egyptian authorities.
Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Twitter that Anastasiades had spoken by telephone with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Here what EgyptAir has tweeted on its official account:
Our flight MS181 is officially hijacked. we'll publish an official statement now. #Egyptair— EGYPTAIR (@EGYPTAIR) March 29, 2016
Negotiations with the Hijacker result in the release of all the passengers, except the crew and four foreigners.— EGYPTAIR (@EGYPTAIR) March 29, 2016
Emergency Call Center— EGYPTAIR (@EGYPTAIR) March 29, 2016
Within Egypt 0800 77 77 000
International +2 02 25989320-29
An EGYPTAIR official declared that 3 passengers, the pilot, co-pilot and 3 cabin crew members in addition to the hijacker are still onboard.— EGYPTAIR (@EGYPTAIR) March 29, 2016
Official sources at EGYPTAIR declared the release of all the hostages and the arrest of the hijacker. #EgyptAir— EGYPTAIR (@EGYPTAIR) March 29, 2016