Is The EgyptAir Hijacking Terrorism? Flight 181 Diverts To Cyprus After A Reported Suicide Belt On Board
While en route from Alexandria to Cairo, an EgyptAir flight was hijacked when a passenger claimed to have an explosive belt. But is the EgyptAir hijacking terrorism? The hijacker's demands have not been released, nor is it known whether he has connections to a terrorist organization.
Update: The hijack situation is over. The hijacker is in custody, and everybody on board the plane is safe.
Flight 181 took off just after 6:30 a.m. local time and landed less than an hour later in Larnaca, Cyprus, an island to the north of Egypt in the Mediterranean. The airline has confirmed the hijacking and said that all passengers have been released except three foreign nationals and four crew members, including the pilot and co-pilot.
There a number of conflicting reports about the hijacking. Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades told reporters that the incident is not related to terrorism. He said that the hijacker was hoping to reunite with his ex-wife, a Cypriot national. "It’s all to do with a woman,” Anastasiades said. “We are doing everything to release the hostages.” Egyptian officials named the hijacker as Seif El Din Mustafa, but gave no other details about him. There are also conflicting reports about his nationality, though he is believed to be an Egyptian national.
The updates from Egypt and Cyprus have been contradictory. The Associated Press initially quoted a Cypriot official who said that it appeared there was more than one hijacker on the Airbus A320. Egyptian media has said there is just one. Egypt’s civil aviation authority said that 81 passengers were on board at takeoff, but that may not be correct either. Cypriot television has reported that just 55 were on board. Reuters reported that 10 were American and eight were British nationals. Why all but four were released also remains unclear.
This hijacking will raise more questions regarding security at Egyptian airports after a Russian plane crashed over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula in November. All 224 people on board were killed, and Russia eventually acknowledged that an explosive device planted by ISIS was the cause.