The Latest: Cyprus says hijacker was clearly 'unstable'
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The Latest: Cyprus says hijacker was clearly 'unstable'
Mar. 29, 2016
CAIRO (AP) — The Latest on the hijacked EgyptAir plane that was diverted to Cyprus. (all times local):
Cyprus' foreign minister says the Egyptian who hijacked a domestic EgyptAir flight and diverted it to the island nation appeared to be "psychologically unstable."
Ioannis Kasoulides tells reporters it was clear from the beginning of the hijacking on Tuesday that it was not an act of terrorism, "despite the fact that the individual appeared to be dangerous in terms of his behavior."
The hijacker surrendered and was arrested after several hours, and all passengers and crew left the plane unharmed.
Kasoulides says the hijacker made several demands, including the release of Egyptian female prisoners, but that "his demands made no sense or were too incoherent to be taken seriously."
He says the hijacker also asked to speak to his ex-wife, a Cypriot woman, and wanted to deliver a letter to her. Kasoulides says the contents of the letter "were also incoherent."
Egyptian Ambassador Hussein Abdelkarim Mubarak, appearing at the same press conference, praised the close coordination between the two countries and said the hijacker was psychologically unstable and had "family problems."
A Cyprus foreign ministry official says the hijacker of the EgyptAir plane that was diverted to Cyprus has been arrested and that the situation is "over."
Alexandros Zenon, the permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry, did not immediately have more details on the arrest, which ended an hours-long drama at the Larnaca airport.
Earlier, seven more people — presumably the last of the crew and passengers who had remained with the hijackers onboard — were seen leaving the plane. One man climbed out the cockpit window.
Local TV footage from the scene in Larnaca airport has shown that seven more people left the hijacked EgyptAir plane, with one man climbing out of the cockpit window and the sliding off the plane.
The others left by climbing down the stairs in two groups, within the space of about half an hour on Tuesday. It's unclear how many remain on the plane with the hijacker.
Meanwhile, Egyptian officials have identified the hijacker as Seifedeen Mustafa. An earlier name given for him was wrong.
Cyprus police have evacuated a stretch of beach near the Larnaca airport tarmac where a hijacked EgyptAir passenger jet is parked.
The standoff at the airport is continuing with the hijacker and seven passengers and crew remaining on the EgyptAir plane that was hijacked on Tuesday morning.
Cypriot police told dozens of journalists and patrons of a number of trendy coffee shops and restaurants to vacate Makenzy Beach, which is popular with tourists.
The beach is just meters away from the outer fence of Cyprus' main airport at Larnaca where the aircraft landed Tuesday after a hijacker diverted it to the east Mediterranean island.
Egypt's civil aviation minister says seven people remain with the hijacker on the EgyptAir plane that has landed in Cyprus, four crew and three passengers.
The minister, Sharif Fathi, would not disclose any names but there has been confusion over the identity of the hijacker. He spoke to the media in Cairo shortly after the hijacking.
An Egyptian woman has said she is the wife of Ibrahim Samaha — the name given earlier by Egyptian officials as the hijacker. She says her husband, with the same name, is not the hijacker and that he was on his way to Cairo en route to the United States to attend a conference.
The woman, who identified herself as Nahla, told the private TV network ONTV in a telephone interview that her husband had never been to Cyprus and that a photo shown on Egyptian and regional TV channels and purporting to show the hijacker is not her husband.
The confusion over the identity of the hijacker could not immediately be resolved.
Officials at the Egyptian airport from which the hijacked EgyptAir aircraft took off and was taken to Cyprus say the hijacker is a native of the Egyptian Mediterranean city of Alexandria and a dual Egyptian-American citizen.
Egyptian officials have earlier identified the hijacker as Ibrahim Samaha, a veterinarian.
The plane took off from Bourg el-Arab airport just outside Alexandria and was flying on a regular route to Cairo, the Egyptian capital, on Tuesday when the hijacking took place.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
—Maggie Michael in Cairo.
Cyprus' president says the EgyptAir hijacking incident is "not something which has to do with terrorism."
Nicos Anastasiades says the government of Cyprus is doing its utmost so that all passengers on the EgyptAir flight that has been hijacked are safe. He spoke on the sidelines of a meeting Tuesday with the president of the European Parliament.
Anastasiades says "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."
EgyptAir is offering those concerned about their loved ones possibly being on a hijacked flight that was taken to Cyprus several telephone numbers to call for more information.
EgyptAir says those within Egypt could call their emergency center at 0800 77 77 000, while those living abroad can call +20 2 259 893 2029.
Egyptian aviation authority says the flight, coded MS181, is an Airbus jet. It earlier said there were 81 passengers on board and five crew members but there are conflicting reports on those figures. It was supposed to fly from Alexandria to Cairo on Tuesday morning, but was diverted to Cyprus after hijacking, where all the passengers except four foreigners and the crew were allowed to disembark.
An Egyptian government spokesman says the hijacker of an Egyptian aircraft forced to fly to Cyprus wanted to go to Istanbul but was told by the captain that he did not have enough fuel for the journey.
The spokesman, Hossam al-Queish, also told the private CBC TV network that authorities could not confirm that the hijacker, identified as Egyptian national Ibrahim Samaha, had explosives on him.
The channel also showed a photo of Samaha standing in what appears to be the back of an aircraft. He was said to be a doctor.
The director of the Alexandria airport, Hossni Hassan, says 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.
An official with a flight-tracking website says the EgyptAir flight that was hijacked on the way to Cairo showed no immediate signs of distress while in the air.
Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for FlightRadar24, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that EgyptAir flight MS181 flew in a typical fashion on the Cyprus, without the pilots signaling any trouble via their transponder.
Petchenik said: "It looks like a completely controlled flight aside from the fact it was hijacked."
Egyptian aviation authority says the flight is an Airbus jet, it was supposed to fly from Alexandria to Cairo on Tuesday morning. The airline says four foreigners and the flight crew remain on board after negotiations.
EgyptAir says that four foreigners and the flight crew remain onboard a hijacked flight.
The state carrier of Egypt made the announcement Tuesday on Twitter. It said the release came after negotiations with the unidentified hijacker of the flight.
Cyprus official says 56 people on board the hijacked EgyptAir plane have been released and have left the aircraft.
Egyptian aviation authority says the flight, coded MS181, is an Airbus jet. It earlier said there were 81 passengers on board and five crew members but there are conflicting reports on those figures. It was supposed to fly from Alexandria to Cairo on Tuesday morning.
No group has claimed responsibility for the hijacking.
Egypt's aviation authority says the hijacker of the Egyptian airplane forced to fly to Cyprus has claimed to have an explosives belt on him.
This is a according to a statement from the authority on Tuesday. The explosives would suggest that the hijacker is an Islamic militant. Suicide belts have been a weapon of choice for Islamic militants in the Mideast.
The plane landed in Larnaca in Cyprus after which the hijackers allowed some women and children to leave.
Egypt's civil aviation authority says an EgyptAir plane has been hijacked while flying from the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria to the capital, Cairo.
A Cypriot government official says the hijacked plane landed on Tuesday morning at the airport in Larnaka and that there are suspicions of a bomb on board.
A second Cypriot official says there "seems like there's more than one hijacker." He says there have been no demands other than that police vehicles move away from the aircraft.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.
The statement from the Egyptian aviation authority says the MS181 is an Airbus and that it has 55 passengers on board and five crew members.
—Menelaos Hadjicostis in Larnaca, Cyprus.