EgyptAir hijacker arrested: Cyprus Foreign Ministry | News | DW | 29.03.2016
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EgyptAir hijacker arrested: Cyprus Foreign Ministry

The hijacker of a domestic EgyptAir plane which landed in Cyprus has been arrested and all hostages aboard have been released. The hijacker's motives have remained unclear, with officials describing him as "unstable."

After hours of hostage negotiations on Tuesday, Cyprus' foreign ministry reported that the hijacker of a domestic EgyptAir passenger plane has been arrested:

A total of 81 people, including 21 foreigners and 15 crew members, were on board the domestic EgyptAir passenger plane when it was hijacked and redirected to Cyprus' Larnaca airport. Egyptian civil aviation said the man - who was an Egyptian national - threatened to detonate an explosives belt on the Airbus A-320.

Following lengthy negotiations, all passengers and crew were evacuated from the plane and are reportedly safe. A Cyprus police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the belt worn by the hijacker contained no explosives.

Earlier, the seven people - who were presumed to be the remaining hostages - were seen leaving the plane. One man climbed out through the cockpit window.

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Passengers leave hijacked EgyptAir plane

Hijacker was 'unstable'

Although the hijacker's motives remained unclear, Cypriot officials said the act did not appear to be terror-related.

"This is not about terrorism. This is about the individual action of a person who is psychologically unstable," said the Cypriot foreign ministry's permanent secretary, Alexandros Zenon.

The hijacker - who was identified by Cyprus' Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Seif Eldin Mustafa - at times alternately demanded for female prisoners in Egypt to be released, and to meet with European Union representatives, reported Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.

"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 that the man would now be questioned to ascertain his motives.

At other times, the man said he wanted to see his ex-wife, a woman living in Cyprus. When asked during a press conference to confirm whether the hijacker was trying to see his estranged wife, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades chuckled and said: "Always, there is a woman."

Concerns over Egyptian security

The EgyptAir aircraft was flying a domestic Alexandria-Cairo route, a flight that takes approximately 30 minutes to complete, before being hijacked.

The hijacking comes less than six months after a Russian airliner was downed over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. The attack was claimed by the "Islamic State"-affiliated militant group Sinai Province.

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