EgyptAir hijacker arrested in Cyprus; officials call him an 'idiot,' not a terrorist
“He’s not a terrorist, he’s an idiot,” Egypt’s foreign ministry said in a statement to a Cairo-based journalist quoted by Reuters.
(FOX NEWS) -- Police arrested a lovestruck “idiot” who claimed to be wearing a suicide belt and forced an EgyptAir passenger jet to land in Cyprus Tuesday morning, ending a bizarre and frightening hijacking that stretched on for hours.
Officials in Cyprus said the hijacking was "over." The country's president Nicos Anastasiades insisted it was not terrorism, with another government official saying the man "seems (to be) in love."
Officials reportedly said he demanded a meeting with his ex-wife, giving negotiators the name of a woman who lives in Cyprus and asking to give her an envelope.
“He’s not a terrorist, he’s an idiot,” Egypt’s foreign ministry said in a statement to a Cairo-based journalist quoted by Reuters. “Terrorists are crazy but they aren’t stupid. This guy is.”
The hijacker forced the EgyptAir Airbus A320, bound from Alexandria to Cairo, to land at Larnaca airport on Tuesday morning. He initially released most of the passengers, but kept three as well as four members of the cabin crew for several additional hours, according to Egypt's Civil Aviation Minister. It was not known if the suicide belt was real.
Local television caught one of the last people to get off the plane escaping through a cockpit window. It was unclear whether that was a passenger or crew member.
The director of the Alexandria airport, Hossni Hassan, said there were 26 foreigners on board, including eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, a French national, an Italian, two Greeks and one Syrian. He said three other foreigners could not be identified.
Egyptian officials have identified the hijacker as Seifedeen Mustafa. An earlier name given for him was wrong.
There were also conflicting reports on the number of passengers and crew on the plane. An initial statement from Egypt's aviation authority said there were 81 passengers and five crew members on board. A revised statement reported by state media in Cyprus said that there were 55 passengers and seven crew members on board. A Cypriot official told The Associated Press that 56 passengers had left the aircraft after the hijacker released them.
Sky News reported that the short-haul Flight 181 took off from Alexandria at 8 a.m. Cyprus time. The hijacker contacted the control tower in Lanarka 30 minutes later and was given permission to land.
The plane landed at the airport in Larnaka, on the southern coast of the Mediterranean island, at approximately 8:45 a.m. local time.
Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for flight-tracking website FlightRadar24, said the flight showed no signs of distress on its route to Cyprus.
"It looks like a completely controlled flight aside from the fact it was hijacked," Petchenik said.
Reuters, citing an Israeli military source, reported that Israel scrambled warplanes in its airspace as a precaution in response to the hijacking.
The hijacking again calls attention to security at Egyptian airports, five months after a Russian aircraft crashed over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula minutes after it took off from Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. All 224 people on board were killed in the crash. Russia later said an explosive device brought down the aircraft and the Islamic State terror group claimed it downed the plane.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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