Egypt Airplane hijacked, most passengers freed
Cairo/Nicosia, March 29 (IANS) An EgyptAir plane on a domestic flight was hijacked on Tuesday and later landed in Cyprus, where all but four foreign passengers and the crew were released, officials said.
The Airbus 320 was on its way from Alexandria to capital Cairo when a passenger claiming to be armed with explosives took charge of the aircraft and forced it to fly to Larnaca in southern Cyprus, EgyptAir said.
The hijacker, identified as Ibrahim Samaha, an Egyptian, had acted due to “personal reasons”, media reports said.
One unconfirmed report said the passenger may be seeking asylum.
There were conflicting reports on the number of passengers and crew on board. Initial reports put the number at 81. But MENA news agency said the Flight 181 carried 56 passengers and eight crew on board.
The passengers included 30 Egyptians and 26 foreigners, including eight Americans and four Britons, airport officials in Alexandria were quoted as saying.
Shortly after it landed in Larnaca, almost all the passengers were let off. Videos showed them deboarding.
EgyptAir said negotiations had resulted in the release of the passengers.
The Egyptian aviation ministry had earlier said the hijacker had threatened to detonate an explosives belt, forcing the captain to divert the flight to Cyprus.
Cypriot police said those in control of the aircraft had made no immediate demands after it landed in Larnaca.
The Larnaca airport was closed and all scheduled flights were diverted. Cypriot anti-terrorism units have been deployed at Larnaca airport to deal with the crisis.