“It’s over” announced the Cypriot Foreign Minister at 2:41 p.m. local time, after more than five hours of hostage negotiations.
The nearly day-long hijack crisis at Cyprus’ Larnaca airport involving an EgyptAir plane is over with the arrest of the hijacker. Egypt media reports that the hijacker, identified as Seif El din Mustafa, was seen emerging from the aircraft with his hands held up in the air.
While the reasons for the hijacking were not entirely clear, the incident will deal another blow to Egypt’s tourism industry and hurt efforts to revive an economy hammered by political unrest following the 2011 uprising. The hijacking also puts into question EgyptAir security, because the hijacker managed to get a “bomb” on the plane, although it was fake.
Local media reports said the hijacker had handed over a four-page letter in Arabic after the plane landed at Larnaca on Tuesday morning, and that later a woman thought to be his ex-wife had arrived at the airport.
This is purported as the main reason for the hijacking, the desperate need for Seif El din Mustafa to reunite with his estranged love. Although, other reports still state he wanted the release of Egyptian prisoners, and political asylum in Europe. The hijacker’s mental state was apparently very unstable as his requests changed frequently during the hostage takeover.
The civil aviation ministry said the plane’s pilot, Omar al-Gammal, had informed authorities that he was threatened by a passenger who claimed to be wearing a suicide explosive belt and forced him to divert the plane to Larnaca.