Saif Al Deen Mustafa was known to Egyptian police. Image Credit: Al Ahram

Cairo: An Egyptian man, who hijacked an EgyptAir passenger plane and briefly took all 63 people aboard hostage, is an ex-convict, a local newspaper reported.

Identified as Seif Edin Mustafa, the hijacker was born in June 1957 in Helwan in southern Cairo, private newspaper Al Youm Al Saba said.

Having been expelled from the law school at Alexandria University, he worked at several jobs and got involved in unlawful practices, the paper said.

Mustafa was prosecuted for alleged offences linked to forgery, drug dealing and fraud.

He was jailed three times and escaped from prison during the security breakdown that hit Egypt following the 2011 uprising. Three years later, he turned himself in to police and was released from prison last year.

Security officials declined to comment on his background.

A photograph of Mustafa purportedly showed him inside the plane wearing an explosive vest. Mustafa’s motive for hijacking the plane was not immediately clear.

“The hijacker had no definite demands,” Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Esmail said minutes after the peaceful end of the drama. “He only asked to meet a representative from the European Union and be allowed to go to a third country (other than Egypt and Cyprus),” Esmail added without elaborating. Unconfirmed reports said that the hijacker had asked for political asylum in Cyprus

Mustafa is being questioned in Cyprus at present.

Blaming Mustafa for the hijacking, Esmail cleared the name of Ebrahim Samaha, an Egypt-born US veterinary professor who happened to be one of the passengers and who was initially mistaken for the real hijacker.