An EgyptAir flight has been hijacked and forced to divert to Larnaca airport on the south coast of Cyprus.
Flight MS181 carrying 81 passengers from Alexandria to Cairo was taken over after a passenger said he was wearing an explosive belt. EgyptAir has said that negotiations had resulted in the release of everyone on board the Airbus A320 except for the crew and four foreign passengers.
It has now emerged that the hijack is ‘not looking like an ISIS attack’, Reuters are reporting.
And Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades confirms Egypt plane hijacking not related to terrorism.
— Stephen Kalin (@stephenkalin) March 29, 2016
The hijacker, Ibrahim Samaha, an Egypt national and professor of veterinary medicine at Alexandria University, has personal motives.
CYBC says Samaha has an ex-wife in Cyprus, and witnesses say the hijacker threw a letter written in Arabic onto the airport tarmac and asked for it to be delivered to her.
He is said to be demanding asylum in Cyprus. Samaha’s wife, who lives not far from the airport, is being brought to the airport now to negotiate with him, Sky News reports.
The head of Alexandria’s Borg El Arab Airport, where the flight took off, has told BBC eight Americans, four Britons, two Belgians, one Italian, four Dutch and 30 Egyptians were on board the flight.
Earlier reports had said there were 81 passengers on board.
And Cypriot state broadcasters are now reporting that more passengers have been seen leaving the hijacked plane, Reuters says.
As most passengers have now left the plane, it is hoped that the hijacking will end in a peaceful conclusion.
Cyprus’ president Nicos Anastasiades said:
We are doing our utmost in order for everyone to be released and safe and to give an end to this unprecedented [incident]. In any case it is not something which has to do with terrorism.
Update: It has now been reported that the hijacker was strapped with fake explosives and has been arrested.