Hijacker of EgyptAir flight arrested as Cyprus Airport drama ends

Authorities arrested the hijacker of an Egyptian airliner that was diverted to Cyprus on Tuesday, after the plane’s passengers and crew were able to escape unharmed.

The hijacker, who officials said was motivated by personal reasons and who had reportedly claimed to be wearing an explosives belt, was detained after several tense hours at Larnaca airport where the plane had landed.

“The hijacker has just been arrested,” Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Twitter. No further details were immediately available.

“The passengers are safe and the crew is safe,” Egypt’s civil aviation minister Sherif Fathy said on state television minutes after Cyprus said the hijacker had been taken into custody.

Egypt’s Prime Minister Sharif Ismail said in televised remarks that the alleged hijacker was an Egyptian and had demanded to speak to a European Union representative.

Officials earlier said there was no link to “terrorism” in the incident and that the hijacker had demanded to see a Cypriot woman who was his estranged lover, with whom he had children.

“This is not about terrorism. This is about the individual action of a person who is psychologically unstable,” said the Cypriot foreign ministry’s permanent secretary, Alexandros Zenon.

The EgyptAir plane landed at the airport in the southern coastal city of Larnaca at 8:50 am (0550 GMT), after the hijacker had contacted the control tower 20 minutes earlier to demand the diversion.

Egyptian civil aviation said he had threatened to detonate an explosives belt on the Airbus A-320, which had been headed from the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria to Cairo.

Most of the passengers were allowed to disembark after the plane landed, but a handful of crew and passengers had remained on board until shortly before the hijacker’s arrest.

The plane had been carrying 21 foreigners including eight Americans, four Dutch citizens, four Britons and a French citizen, an Egyptian civil aviation ministry statement said.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades had earlier told reporters the incident appeared to be motivated by personal reasons.

“The hijacking is not terrorism-related,” he told a joint news conference with the visiting president of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz.

Asked about reports that the hijacker had demanded to see a Cypriot woman, Anastasiades laughed and said: “Always there is a woman

Source: National News Agency