Who Is The EgyptAir Hijacker? The Passenger Allegedly Used A Suicide Belt To Threaten The Plane
On Tuesday morning, an EgyptAir plane was hijacked en route from Alexandria to Cairo. After some confusion, Egyptian officials identified the alleged EgyptAir Flight 181 hijacker as Seif El Din Mustafa, CNN reports. Earlier reports incorrectly named Ibrahim Samaha as the hijacker, but he was reportedly just a passenger. The plane took off just after 6:30 a.m. local time and landed less than an hour later in Larnaca, Cyprus. The airline confirmed the hijacking, and said that all passengers have been released except four foreign nationals and some of the flight crew.
Update: After a standoff of several hours, the hostage situation on the hijacked EgyptAir plane ended with the hijacker arrested and all onboard safe. Cypriot officials called the hijacker "psychologically unstable" and said that his demands changed throughout the negotiation.
Little is known about Mustafa. Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades, however, told gathered reporters that the hijacking was not related to terrorism. Mustafa's exact demands remain unknown, but Anastasiades suggested it has to do with Mustafa's ex-wife, a Cypriot national. "It’s all to do with a woman,” Anastasiades said. “We are doing everything to release the hostages.”
The same official, a spokesperson for the Egyptian president, also told CNN that the hijacker was an Egyptian national. Some conflicting reports said the hijacker is Lebanese and seeking political asylum. Also unclear is whether Mustafa was wearing a suicide belt. Reports said that is how he hijacked the plane, but the existence of such a belt has not been confirmed.
An Egyptian government spokesman said that Mustafa initially wanted to go to Istanbul, but the pilot told him there was not enough fuel on the plane. That would seem to conflict with his attempt to reconnect with his ex. Another conflicting report said that he wanted female prisoners released in Egypt.
Samaha, the man originally named as the hijacker, is Egyptian and a professor of veterinary medicine at Alexandria University. He spoke with the BBC to clear his name. He was already off the plane when Egyptian media named him as the hijacker. His wife also called an Egyptian news channel and explained that he had never been to Cyprus, and was headed to a conference in the United States.