EgyptAir hijacker detained for eight days

A Cyprus court has ordered the detention for eight days of an Egyptian man who admitted hijacking a domestic EgyptAir flight and diverting it to the island by threatening to blow it up with a fake explosives belt.

EgyptAir hijacker detained for eight days

Police prosecutor Andreas Lambrianou said the suspect, whom authorities had earlier identified as 59-year-old Seif Eldin Mustafa, faces charges including hijacking, illegal possession of explosives, kidnapping and threats to commit violence.

Tuesday’s hijacking ended peacefully when police arrested the suspect after all 72 passengers and crew on board the Airbus A320 aircraft were released.

Mr Lambrianou said the man told police: “What’s someone supposed to do when he hasn’t seen his wife and children in 24 years and the Egyptian government won’t let him?”

Cypriot officials had described Mustafa as “psychologically unstable” following a bizarre set of demands he made to police negotiators, including what Mr Lambrianou said was a letter he wanted delivered to his Cypriot ex-wife in which he demanded the release of 63 dissident women imprisoned in Egypt.

Mr Lambrianou said that 15 minutes into flight MS181 from the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria to Cairo, the suspect demanded that the aircraft be diverted to an airport in either Greece, Turkey or Cyprus. The aircraft eventually landed in Larnaca after the pilots warned of low fuel, and despite an initial refusal from Cypriot authorities on the landing request.

The police prosecutor said witnesses saw the suspect wearing a white belt around his waist laden with cylindrical objects stuffed in pockets.

Wire protruding from the cylinders led to what appeared to be a “push-button” detonator the suspect held in his hand.

The suspect had threatened to detonate the belt if police attempted to “neutralise” him, Mr Lambrianou said, but he eventually gave up after the crew and passengers were released.

Mr Lambrianou said no explosives were found in the belt, except for a container filled with an unidentified liquid. Police also found an unidentified liquid in the suspect’s bag as well as numerous documents written in Arabic.

The prosecutor said Cypriot authorities will ask the help of Interpol to determine how the suspect managed to pass the fake explosives belt through airport security in Egypt.

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