Hijacked plane forced to land in Larnaca
A man thought to be strapped with explosives hijacked an Egyptian plane on a flight between Alexandria and Cairo on Tuesday and forced it to land in Cyprus, Egyptian officials said.
About 60 people, including seven crew, had been onboard, Egyptian and Cypriot officials said. At around 11,20am several more people left the aircraft.
Cyprus broadcasting (CYBC) reported that the hijacker may have personal motives. He had an ex-wife inCyprus, CYBC said. Reports said the hijacker’s ex wife was being escorted to the airport. “It is not something which has to do with terrorism,” President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters.
“The negotiations with the hijacker have resulted in the release of all the plane passengers with the exception of the crew and five foreigners,” the airline said in a statement, but it later changed the figure to four foreigners still held.
Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said the plane’s pilot, Omar al-Gammal, had informed authorities that he was threatened by a passenger wearing a suicide explosives belt and forced him to land in Larnaca.
A Cyprus Foreign Ministry official said he could not confirm the man was rigged with explosives. The hijacking occurred in Cyprus‘s flight information region.
Witnesses said the hijacker threw a letter on the apron of the airport in Larnaca, written in Arabic, asking that it be delivered to his ex-wife, who is Cypriot.
The plane was an Airbus 320, Egypt’s aviation ministry said.
Eyptian state media named the hijacker as Ibrahim Samaha, 27, an Egyptian, but gave no other details about him. Other reports say he is a professor of veterinary medicine at Alexandria University and is seeking political asylum in Cyprus.
Passengers on the plane included eight Britons and 10 Americans, three security sources at Alexandria airport said.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said: “It looks like at least 49 of the passengers have been freed. That is all I have to say” he told reporters.
Israel scrambled warplanes in its airspace as a precaution in response to the hijacking, according to an Israeli military source.
Larnaca airport remains closed. Three flights coming have been diverted to Paphos already, airport authorities said. Another four are expected to land there soon.
Source: Cyprus Mail