EgyptAir jet gets hijacked, lands in Cyprus

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An EgyptAir plane has been hijacked and has landed at Larnaca airport in Cyprus, Larnaca police press office said.

The flight was an internal flight heading from Burj El Arab airport in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria to the capital Cairo, Ihab Raslan, spokesman for the Egyptian ministry of civil aviation, said.

Negotiations with the hijacker have resulted in the release of all passengers, except for seven crew and four foreigners, a statement from the Egyptian ministry of civil aviation said.

EgyptAir had previously reported through its official Twitter account that five foreigners were being held captive on the plane, but changed to four.

The Airbus 320 EgyptAir flight, designated MS181, has at least 81 people on board, according to the ministry.

Those on board the flight when it took off included eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, one Italian and 30 Egyptians.

Pilot Omar El Gamal has reported a threat from a passenger claiming to have an explosive belt, who forced the plane to land in Cyprus, the statement added.

The hijacking comes months after a Russian Metrojet passenger plane was downed over Egypt’s Sinai desert.

While Russian authorities insisted the plane crash was the result of terrorism, one U.S. official said it was “99.9% certain” the cause. Another said it was “likely.”

Egypt was insisting that airports were safe, and that tourists should come back. But this is going to raise a lot of questions about just how safe the country, and its air travel is.

“We don’t know whether it is real, but if it is, how on earth did he get it on board?” Geoffrey Thomas from Airlineratings.com said.

The spokesman for Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry Ehab Raslan said they doubt the hijacker had any explosives.
“I doubt that he had explosives because security has been heightened across all Egyptian airports but we will be able to confirm later,” Raslan said.

He added that an Egyptian team is conducting the negotiations with the hijacker.

Latest reports from Cypriot media suggest there is just one hijacker who was motivated by “personal reasons” and may be seeking asylum – although this has not been confirmed.

The hijacker has been identified as an Egyptian citizen, Ibrahim Samaha.

Samaha is reported to be a 27-year-old professor of veterinary medicine.

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said the incident was not terror related.
He added, “We are doing our utmost in order for everyone to be released and safe and to give an end to this unprecedented incident.”

The Civil Aviation Ministry said no demanded had been made.

However, an unnamed government official said the hijacker had asked to see his estranged wife in Cyprus and that she lived in the village of Oroklini not far from the airport.

Witnesses told the state TV they saw him throw a letter on to the tarmac and demand it be delivered to the woman.

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