Hijacker wore fake suicide vest, threatened to blow up plane

(From agencies)

The hijacker of an EgyptAir plane Seif Eldin Mustafa, who surrendered (Watch the video clip) at Larnaca airport Tuesday afternoon after a seven-hour stand-off with Cypriot authorities, wanted the plane to be refueled and flown to Istanbul.

A man thought to be the hijacker leaves the Egyptair Airbus A320 at Larnaca Airport

A man thought to be the hijacker leaves the Egyptair Airbus A320 at Larnaca Airport

After most of the passengers left the plane and he was told his demands would not be met, the hijacker made a threat to blow up the plane.

On board were the crew and two British passengers.

It was a “dangerous complication near the end,” said Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioanns Kasoulides, who headed a ministerial crisis team during the hijacking.

After he got off the plane, the hijacker tried to run away but was arrested.

A search of the plane found no explosives and the hijacker’s fake suicide vest was filled with mobile phone covers.

Kasoulides said the man’s motives did not appear clear.

“On the one hand, he wanted to deliver a letter to his ex-wife and then he started demanding things from representatives of the European Union,” he said.

The man’s demands were neither logical nor coherent. The letter too was incoherent, he said.

Minutes before the man’s surrender, foreign ministry official Alexandros Zenon said they were dealing with a person who appeared to be in an unstable psychological state.

Earlier, the hijacker looked like a love sick professor desperate to meet his Cypriot ex-wife when he threw a letter written in Arabic on the apron of the airport in Larnaca asking it be delivered to his former wife.

The white belt with bulging pockets and protruding wires made EgyptAir pilot believe Seif Eldin Mustafa will blow up the plane if the plane is not diverted to Cyprus

The white belt with bulging pockets and protruding wires made EgyptAir pilot Omar al-Gammal believe Seif Eldin Mustafa (pictured) will blow up the plane if it is not diverted to Cyprus

Daily newspaper Politis on its web said the hijacker’s ex-wife Marina, 51, a mother of five from Oroklini in Larnaca district, arrived at the airport around 12.30 pm.

The letter was then given to Marina. In the letter, the hijacker was said to have demanded the release of women political prisoners in Egypt.

But, after the hijacker’s surrender, Kasoulides said the unstable man was rambling. He made the demand and then dropped it and put forward another.

The couple has four grown up children — two boys and two girls. The hijacker, identified by the foreign ministry in a tweet as Seif Eldin Mustafa, lived in Cyprus until 1994.

Earlier, Egyptian state media named the hijacker as Ibrahim Samaha, 27, an Egyptian, while a news portal said he was a Libyan. Other reports said he is a professor of veterinary medicine at Alexandria University seeking political asylum in Cyprus.

Meanwhile, Egypt is sending a plane to Cyprus to pick up stranded passengers, some of whom had been traveling from Alexandria to Cairo for connecting flights abroad.

Reacting to the hijack drama, Egypt’s civil aviation ministry said the pilot, Omar al-Gammal, had told authorities that he was threatened by a passenger who claimed to be wearing a “suicide explosive belt” and forced him to divert the plane to Larnaca.

Gammal told Reuters that the hijacker seemed “abnormal”.

“I am not in a state to speak,” said the pilot, adding that he had been obliged to treat the suicide vest as a serious security threat.

Photographs 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.

Television channels showed video footage of the hijacker being searched by security men at a metal detector at Borg al-Arab airport in Alexandria.

Interior ministry officials said he was expelled from law school and had a long criminal record, including robberies.

The hijack incident happens when Egypt’s vital tourism industry is already reeling from the crash of a Russian passenger plane in Sinai in late October.

Cyprus has seen little militant activity for decades, despite its proximity to the Middle East.

A botched attempt by Egyptian commandos to storm a hijacked airliner at Larnaca airport led to the disruption of diplomatic relations between Cyprus and Egypt in 1978.

In 1988, a Kuwaiti airliner which had been hijacked from Bangkok to Kuwait in a 16-day siege, had a stopover in Larnaca where two hostages were killed.

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