EgyptAir hijack LIVE: Hijacker arrested, all hostages escape safely

EgyptAir aircraft hijack: The Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation reported that 55 people were on board, with a crew of 7.

By: Agencies | Athens | Updated: March 29, 2016 6:03 pm
Egyptair, Egyptair hijack, Cyprus, Egyptian airline hijack, Egypt plane hijack, Cyprus, Cyprus hijack, Egyptair hijacked, Egypt plane hijacked, Egyptair Cyprus, EgyptAir hijack: A bus carrying some passengers from the hijacked EgyptAir aircraft drives by the plane at Larnaca Airport in Cyprus Tuesday, March 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

An Egyptair domestic flight from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked on Tuesday and landed in Cyprus, Egyptian officials said. The pilot of the plane was threatened by a passenger who claims to be strapped with explosives, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said. The passenger has been identified as Ibrahim Samaha.

Samaha, is reportedly a professor of veterinary medicine at Alexandria University, a staff list on the university website shows. Meanwhile, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades has said that the Egypt plane hijacking is not related to “terrorism”.

The Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation reported that 55 passengers were on board and a crew of seven. The hijacking occurred in Cyprus’s flight information region and the airliner was diverted to Larnaca. The plane was an Airbus 320, Egypt’s aviation ministry said.

The ministry in a statement said that pilot Omar al-Gammal had informed authorities that he was threatened by a passenger who possessed a suicide belt and forced him to land in Larnaca.

CYBC said the airplane was parked at an apron at Larnaca airport. The hijacker asked police to back away from the aircraft, it said. Israel scrambled warplanes in its airspace as a precaution in response to the plane hijacking, according to an Israeli military source.

Larnaca is no stranger to hostage crises. Several hijacked planes were diverted to the airport in the 1970s and 1980s.

Here are the LIVE updates:

5:20 pm: The Cyprus government spokesperson confirms that hijacker has been arrested and all the hostages escape safely.

4:20 pm: EgyptAir hijacker is Seif Eldin Mustafa, reportedly making political demands: Cyprus officials

3:00 pm: 4 crew, 3 passengers still on board hijacked EgyptAir plane: aviation minister

2:21 pm: Samaha is head of the department of food health, the site shows.

2:21 pm: The hijacker of an EgyptAir flight, Ibrahim Abdel Tawwab Samaha, is a professor of veterinary medicine at Alexandria University, a staff list on the university website shows.

2:15 pm: Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades has said that the Egypt plane hijacking is not related to “terrorism”.

2:06 pm: EgyptAir hijacker demands to see estranged Cypriot wife: govt official

2:00 pm: Plane carried 21 foreigners including 8 Americans: aviation ministry

1:42 pm: Witnesses said the hijacker threw a letter on the apron of the airport in Larnaca, written in Arabic, asking that it be delivered to his ex-wife, who is Cypriot.

1:36 pm: Petchenik said: “It looks like a completely controlled flight aside from the fact it was hijacked.”

1:35 pm: 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.

Egyptair, Egyptair hijack, Egyptian airline hijack, Egypt plane hijack, Cyprus, Cyprus hijack, Egyptair hijacked, Egypt plane hijacked, Egyptair Cyprus, A hijacked Egypt Air A320 airbus stands on the runway at Larnaca Airport in Larnaca, Cyprus , March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

1:35 pm: 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.

1:32 pm: Hijacker reportedly asking for political asylum in Cyprus, reports.

1:30 pm: A Cyprus Foreign Ministry official said he could not confirm the man was rigged with explosives. The hijacking occurred in Cyprus’s flight information region.

1:28 pm: Cyprus closes Larnaca airport after hijacking, flights diverted to Paphos. (AFP)

1:26 pm: Cyprus state media says hijacker has ex-wife in Cyprus.

1:19 pm: Egyptian media identifies one hijacker of EgyptAir plane as Ibrahim Samaha.

1:05 pm: EgyptAir had earlier said in a previous statement that the number of foreigners remaining on the aircraft was five.

1:00 pm:

12:49 pm: Except seven cabin crew and possibly four foreign nationals all passengers have been released.

12:40 pm:  Egyptair statement: Negotiations underway with hijackers – Pilot says man on board with “explosives belt”.

12:30 pm: Cypriot official says Egypt plane hijackers allow women, children to leave; some now disembarking.

12:25 pm: Cyprus Broadcasting reports one hijacker thought to be strapped with explosives, police have been asked to back away from aircraft.

12:23 pm: Pilot of hijacked EgyptAir plane was threatened by a passenger with suicide belt: Civil Aviation Ministry

12:12 pm: Cyprus official says bomb suspected on board: AP.