A six-hour standoff at Cyprus’s Larnaka airport has ended after the hijacker of an EgyptAir airliner surrendered to authorities.
The Cypriot Foreign Ministry confirmed the end of the crisis, saying in a tweet, “It’s over … hijacker arrested.”
The hijacker, whose motive remains unclear, emerged from the Airbus 320 with his hands in the air. His surrender came after television footage showed seven people exiting the aircraft, including one seen climbing out of a cockpit window.
Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy earlier said that negotiations with the suspected hijacker had resulted in the release of all but three passengers and four crew members.
The Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry said the Airbus was travelling from the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria to the capital, Cairo, when a passenger told the pilot he was carrying explosives and ordered that the plane be rerouted to Larnaka.
EgyptAir said the Airbus A320 was carrying 56 passengers.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kassoulidis said after the standoff ended that the hijacker was wearing a fake explosives belt constructed out of mobile phone covers and wire.
Cyprus’s President Nicos Anastasiades said the incident was not related to terrorism. The Foreign Ministry identified the hijacker in a tweet as Seif Eldin Mustafa, without providing further details.
“It appears to be a person who is unstable, in an unstable psychological state, and the issue is being handled accordingly,” Cypriot Foreign Ministry official Alexandros Zenon told journalists as negotiations with the hijacker were under way.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the man was an Egyptian national who had asked to meet European Union officials or to fly on to another airport.
“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.
Egyptian state media had initially identified the hijacker as a different man, said to be a professor of veterinary medicine at Alexandria University.
Conflicting reports said the hijacker was demanding the release of prisoners in Egypt, had asked to contact his ex-wife, who reportedly lived in Cyprus, or was seeking asylum in Cyprus.
An Egyptian government spokesman said the hijacker wanted to go to Istanbul but was told by the captain that he did not have enough fuel.
It was not known whether the hijacker was actually carrying explosives, as claimed.
Larnaca airport, the main entry point for tourists to Cyprus, was closed during the standoff and scheduled flights were diverted to the west of the island.
The hijacking comes five months after a Russian aircraft exploded in mid-air over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.
The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for downing that plane.
Russia, which said an explosive device brought down the aircraft, stopped all civilian flights to Egypt, a popular destination for Russian vacationers, due to security concerns.
Source: Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.