The hijacker of an EgyptAir passenger jet was arrested at Cyprus’ Larnaca airport after a five-hour standoff. No one was hurt in the incident after the man surrendered to authorities.
The EgyptAir domestic flight from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked on Tuesday morning and forced to divert to the island
Egypt’s civil aviation ministry said the pilot of the plane, Omar al-Gammal, was threatened by a passenger strapped with explosives, but it later said the hijacker’s suicide belt was fake.
Photographs shown on Egyptian state television showed a middle-aged man on a plane wearing glasses and displaying a white belt with bulging pockets and protruding wires.
Conflicting theories emerged about the hijacker’s motives.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said the man seemed to have a personal motive and the incident was “not related to terrorism”. Cyprus state TV said he wanted to contact his ex-wife, who is Greek-Cypriot and lives in Larnaca.
Earlier reports said the man demanded the release of women prisoners in Egypt.
EgyptAir said flight 181 had 81 people on board, including a crew of seven. Most were released shortly after landing in Cyprus.
At 11:30 GMT, the last seven people were seen leaving the aircraft, one whom escaped though the cockpit window.
Speaking to reporters after the crisis ended, Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the hijacker was an Egyptian national but that 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,” he said, adding the man would now be questioned to ascertain his motives.
Cypriot foreign ministry official Alexandros Zenon told reporters during the crisis the hijacker appeared to be “unstable”.
Witnesses told Cyprus Mail newspaper the man threw a letter on the tarmac of the airport in Larnaca, written in Arabic, asking that it be delivered to his ex-wife.
“Our passengers are all well and the crew is all well… We cannot say this was a terrorist act … he was not a professional,” Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fethy told reporters.
Egypt’s vital tourism industry was already reeling from the downing of a Russian passenger plane in the Sinai in late October.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said it was brought down by an attack. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) has said it planted a bomb, killing all 224 people on board.[Source: Al-Jazeera]