Cairo/Nicosia: An Egyptian man who hijacked an EgyptAir flight to Cyprus was arrested on Tuesday evening, ending a five-hour drama during which most passengers were freed early on and the last of the seven passengers and crew simply escaped.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades announced that the hijacker, identified as Seif El Din Mustafa, had personal motives to hijack the jet and that it was not terrorism linked. Officials said Mustafa’s action was linked to his ex-wife, who is a Greek-Cypriot and lives in Larnaca.
Witnesses told Cyprus Mail newspaper that he threw a letter out of the airport in Larnaca, written in Arabic, asking that it be delivered to his former wife.
Asked if the hijacker was motivated by love, Anastasiades laughed and said: “Always there is a woman involved.”
The Cyprus foreign ministry announced the arrest of the hijacker, who had taken charge of the Airbus 320 when it was on its way from Alexandria to Cairo saying he was armed with explosives. The plane was flown to Larnaca in southern Cyprus.
Cyprus officials who had held intense negotiations with the man said he would be interrogated at length. One Egyptian officer dubbed him “mentally unstable”.
The Flight 181 carried 56 passengers — 30 Egyptians and 26 foreigners — and six crew members. Soon after it reached Cyprus, all but seven passengers and crew were let off. The foreigners on board included eight Americans and four Britons.
Soon after it landed in Cyprus, the hijacker freed most of the passengers, holding back only four crew members and three passengers whose nationality was not disclosed by officials.
As the negotiations continued with the man, the seven escaped — six of them simply walking out of the step ladder and the seventh hurling himself out of the cockpit window.
Earlier, the hijacker was mistakenly identified as Ibrahim Samaha, also an Egyptian. Samaha, however, turned out to be an innocent passenger.