“The hijacker has just been arrested,” Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides tweeted Tuesday afternoon, without providing further details.
The EgyptAir Airbus 320 en route from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked by a man and forced to land in Cyprus’ southern coastal city of Larnaca shortly after take-off Tuesday morning.
The plane had a total of 55 passengers and seven crew members on board when it was hijacked. Passengers included Egyptians as well as foreigners from the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Greece and Syria, among others, chairman of the Borg al-Arab Airport in Alexandria told Egyptian state TV.
After the plane landed in Larnaca airport at 8:50 a.m. local time (0550 GMT), the hijacker released most of the people on board except for four crew members and three passengers.
Egyptian civil aviation said earlier that the hijacker had threatened to detonate an explosives belt strapped to his body, which was determined to be fake by Cypriot authorities after he was taken into custody.
The hijacking had sparked a big security operation in Cyprus and five ministers gathered at the ministry of foreign affairs acting as a crisis team.
Based on what was told to the negotiators, the hijacker wanted to deliver a four-page letter to his ex-wife, who is currently living in a village with their four children not far from Larnaca airport.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said on Tuesday that the hijacking was not a terrorist act.
“In any case, it is not something which has to do with terrorism,” Anastasiades said after a meeting with visiting President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz.
The Cypriot Foreign Ministry echoed the president’s judgement, adding that the man was psychologically unstable after being arrested.
“This is not about terrorism. This is about the individual action of a person who is psychologically unstable,” the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Alexandros Zenon said.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the hijacker was an Egyptian national, and authorities would question him to ascertain his true motives, which remain unknown.
1978 HIJACKING AT SAME AIRPORT
After the hijacking, Anastasiades spoke on the phone with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, while Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides kept his Egyptian counterpart informed about the development of the incident.
The incident brought to mind a hijacking in 1978 when an Egyptian plane was forced to land in Larnaca after taking off from Bangkok. The hijacking lasted 16 days and ended in a bloodbath after Egyptian commandos botched their attempt to storm the plane.
The incident had led to the disruption of diplomatic relations between Cyprus and Egypt, two countries that traditionally enjoyed close neighborly relations. Enditem