A hostage crisis ended peacefully in Cyprus after a man who hijacked an EgyptAir plane surrendered to authorities. Domestic EgyptAir Airbus 320 Flight 181 was hijacked on its way from the city of Alexandria to Cairo. The hijacker, afterward identified as Egyptian national Seif Eldin Mustafa, told the passengers and crew he was wearing an explosive belt. The explosives were later found to be fake.
Mustafa confronted the flight crew about a half hour after take off. Reports say he initially wanted to fly to Turkey but consented to landing in Larnaca, Cyprus after the pilot told him they did not have enough fuel to reach Turkey.
“We don’t know yet how he got the equipment and whether it is real or not. The reality is we are dealing with it as a real threat, because we can’t take any risks,” Egyptian Minister of Civil Aviation Sherif Fathy said in a press conference as the situation was unfolding.
His exact motives for hijacking the plane are still unclear, but the evidence so far indicates it was for personal reasons and not an act of terrorism. After landing, an hours-long standoff commenced. Hostage negotiators bartered the release of passengers for each of the hijacker’s demands. Mustafa at first demanded authorities either deliver a letter he had written to his ex wife or let him speak with her. His ex wife was transported to the airport to help authorities negotiate his surrender.
“Our people — they were talking to him all the time in order to keep him busy and allow people to come out,” said Cyprus government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides. His demands later became more dramatic. Among other things, he reportedly demanded the release of female prisoners in Egypt.
“He asked for asylum, he wanted to talk with someone from the European Union … It seems that he was an unstable personality.”
Every passenger and crew member was ultimately released or escaped without apparent injury. Mustafa surrendered once he was left alone in the airplane and was subsequently arrested. EgyptAir sent planes to Larnaca to collect the passengers from the hijacked plane.