Passengers on board hijacked EgyptAir flight arrive back in Cairo | News | DW | 29.03.2016
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Passengers on board hijacked EgyptAir flight arrive back in Cairo

The passengers and crew aboard a hijacked EgyptAir flight have returned safely to Cairo airport from Cyprus. Officials have ruled out terrorism, saying the hijacker appeared to be psychologically unstable.

All passengers and crew aboard a domestic EgyptAir flight that was hijacked by a passenger wearing a fake explosive belt have arrived safely back at Cairo airport.

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail received the 55 passengers and 15 crew, who arrived on a special flight. The hijacked plane underwent technical and security checks and was flown back separately by a different crew.

The hijacker, identified by authorities as 58-year-old Seif Eddin Mustafa, had forced the EgyptAir plane to land in Cyprus and prompted an hours-long standoff. He later surrendered to authorities, and all passengers and crew on board were released unharmed.

Minutes before the arrest, TV footage showed several people disembarking from the plane and a man who appeared to be a crew member climbing out of the cockpit window before sliding down the side of the plane.

Terrorism ruled out

Officials said the hijacking was not an act of terrorism, and that the hijacker appeared to be psychologically unstable.

"From the start, it was clear that this wasn't an act of terrorism, and despite the fact that the individual appeared to be dangerous in terms of his behavior, we understood that this was a psychologically unstable person," Cyprus' Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told reporters.

Mustafa asked to speak to his Cypriot ex-wife, who police brought to the airport. He also demanded the release of women held in Egyptian prisons.

"His demands made no sense or were too incoherent to be taken seriously," Kasoulides said, adding that the contents of a letter the hijacker wanted to give to his ex-wife "were also incoherent."

Egyptian passenger Farah el-Dabani told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV that the hijacker had been seated in the back of the craft and that it was the crew who told passengers the plane had been hijacked.

"There was panic at the beginning, but the crew told us to be quiet. They did a good job to keep us all quiet so the hijacker does not do anything rash," she said.

Amid the ordeal, a passenger appeared to take a picture with Mustafa, whose fake explosive belt was clearly visible.

Security concerns

Flight MS181 was en route from Alexandria to Cairo, a flight that normally takes 30 minutes to complete, before being hijacked Tuesday morning. At least 55 passengers, including 26 foreigners and 15 crew, were aboard.

The hijacking raises more concerns about security at Egyptian airports, five months after a Russian airliner was downed over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people aboard. The attack was claimed by the so-called "Islamic State" terror group.

Egypt's Interior Ministry posted surveillance footage on its Facebook page that it claimed showed Mustafa being thoroughly searched at the airport. It said his handbag contained items which he used to give the impression that he was wearing an explosive belt.

bw/jr (AP, dpa, AFP)

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