Security forces detain the hijacker of the EgyptAir Airbus A-320, which was diverted to Cyprus, after he surrendered to security forces after a six-hour standoff on the tarmac at Larnaca airport's largely disused old terminal Image Credit: AFP

A hijacker seized an EgyptAir plane on Tuesday and forced it to land on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Follow the news here

Searches by Cyprus police found no explosives on the hijacker of an EgyptAir plane diverted to the island or inside the aircraft, a police source told AFP.

The hijacker, who is in custody after surrendering to police following a six-hour standoff at Larnaca airport, had claimed to be wearing an explosives belt, Egyptian officials said.

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Hijacker is 'an ex-convict'

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 Mustafa was prosecuted for alleged offences linked to forgery, drug dealing and fraud, private newspaper Al Youm Al Saba said.

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Hijacker arrested

A hijacker who seized an Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Cyprus has been detained, Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Tuesday.

5 times a plane's cockpit has been taken over

"The hijacker has just been arrested," Christodoulides said on Twitter, without providing further details.

Four more people released

Four more people were released from the hijacked EgyptAir plane forced to land in Cyprus on Tuesday.

Footage aired on Egyptian TV stations showed three people leaving the airliner through the ramp. An unidentified person was also seen climbing out of the cockpit window.

Aviation sources said the three people are believed to be the last passengers who were kept aboard after the release of other passengers earlier on Tuesday. Three other people remain inside the plane, according to the sources who could not identify them.

EgyptAir hijacker identified

The Cyprus Foreign Ministry has identified the hijacker as Seif Eldin Mustafa. 

Egypt's Minister of Aviation, Sharif Fathi, earlier cautioned the media against rushing to name the hijacker of the EgyptAir plane. Earlier reports named the hijacker as Ebrahim Samah, claiming he is an Egyptian man holding a US passport. Fathi said that negotiations are still underway with the hijacker.

Hijacker calls for release of female political prisoners

The hijacker has asked for the release of female political prisoners in Egypt, the Cyprus state broadcaster has reported.

New York-bound EgyptAir flight delayed

Cairo airport has delayed the departure of a New York-bound EgyptAir flight due to security fears. 

Egypt government treating EgyptAir hijacking as 'real threat'

The Egyptian government said on Tuesday it is treating the hijacking of an EgyptAir flight as a “real threat” after a hijacker claiming to be wearing an explosive vest forced the aircraft to land in Cyprus.

Flight 181 from Alexandra to Cairo was hijacked shortly after take-off on Tuesday by an Egyptian national who said he had explosives demanded the Airbus A320 aircraft land in Cyprus or Turkey.

“We are dealing with it as a real threat,” Sherif Fathy Attia, Egypt’s Minister for Civil Aviation, said at a press conference in Egypt. Attia is also the former chairman and chief executive of EgyptAir.

The hijacking is not believed to be terror related with new agencies reporting the hijacker demanded to speak with his ex-wife after the aircraft landed at Larnaca International Airport in Cyprus at 7.50am. 

Attia said the Egyptian government is not aware of the hijackers demands or whether the explosive device is real. He said the situation is being handled at the “highest level.”

Three passengers still being held

The three passengers still held by the hijacker are all non-Egyptians, according to EgyptAir. Attia declined to reveal their nationalities, suggesting it could hurt the negotiations. The other hostages are the aircraft’s two pilots, a stewardess and an airline security official, Attia said. 

The hijacker has been letting passengers off the aircraft since it landed in Cyprus. At one stage he held five passengers and seven crew members hostage, according to EgyptAir.

Questions about airport security raised

The hijacking has once again raised questions about security at Egyptian airports. Attia said the Egyptian government does not know how the hijacker got through security checks at Alexandria’s Burj Al Arab Airport with what is claimed to be an explosive vest. Attia said it is a “serious situation.” 

EgyptAir to send plane to fetch released passengers

EgyptAir will send a plane to Cyprus to bring back passengers released from a hijacked airliner there, Egyptian Minister of Civil Aviation Sharif Fathi said in Cairo on Tuesday.

He added that the number of passengers on the hijacked 320 Airbus now in Larnaca included 30 Egyptians and 25 foreigners. He refused to provide a breakdown of the foreigners' nationalities.

"I  won't give information unless it is verified," he said. Aviation sources, meanwhile, said that the foreign passengers include Americans, Britons, Belgians, Dutch nations, one Frenchman, an Italian and a Syrian.

Seven people still inside hijacked plane 

Cairo: Seven people, including three passengers, are still inside the hijacked EgyptAir plane, said Minister of Civil Aviation Sharif Fathi on Tuesday.

The official declined to disclose the nationalities of the passengers.

"We are interested in the safety of the people aboard, including four crew members," he told a press conference in Cairo. He added that the hijacker had no firearms, but the hijacker claimed to have an explosives belt. "It may be a fake explosives belt. But we deal with it as if it were real."

Egypt minister cautions against naming hijacker

Egyptian Minister of Aviation Sharif Fathi cautioned media against rushing to name the hijacker of the EgyptAir plane.

"We should not tarnish the name of anyone without having verified information," Fathi said, refusing to identify the hijacker.

Earlier reports named the hijacker as Ebrahim Samah, claiming he is an Egyptian man holding a US passport. According to the minister, negotiations are still underway with the hijacker.

"There are no actual demands for the hijacker that we can declare until now," Fathi told reporters in Cairo. 

Explosives ruled out on hijacked plane

Cypriot authorities have informed Egyptian authorities that there were no explosives found on board the hijacked EgyptAir plane, which landed earlier on Tuesday in Larnaca airport,Egypt’s state Middle East News Agency (mena) reported.

The hijacker, identified as Egyptian Ebrahim Samah, was previously reported as threatening to have an explosive belt.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah  Al Sissi has called his Cypriot counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades, to discuss the hostage crisis, state television reported.

More passengers freed

More passengers were seen leaving the hijacked EgyptAir plane in Larnaca airport in Cyprus on Tuesday as a government official said that the hijacker has demanded to see his estranged Cypriot wife.

EgyptAir hijacker lets two more hostages go

The hijacker of an EgyptAir flight that landed in Cyprus on Tuesday has released two more hostages, an airline spokesperson told Gulf News.

EgyptAir said that there were 55 passengers, 7 cabin crew members and 8 extra crew members on board the plane. EgyptAir earlier told Gulf News there were 56 passengers on board, 7 crew members and one airline security official.

Hostages held

The hijacker of an EgyptAir flight that was forced to land in Cyprus on Tuesday is holding five non-Egyptians and eight airline crew members hostage, an EgyptAir spokesperson has told Gulf News

Hijacker is Egyptian professor: report

The hijacker is an Egyptian national called Ebrahim Samah, state news agency Mena reported. Is said that the hijacker was sitting on seat K38. The hijacker has reportedly demanded asylum in Cyprus, according to state radio.

Alexandria University, on its website, said the hijacker is a professor of Veterinary Medicine at the university. According to reports, the hijacker had sent a four-page letter written in Arabic to a woman living in Cyprus.

Passengers let off hijacked plane

The majority of those on board, except for the five non-Egyptians and eight airline crew members, were let go after it landed in Larnaca, Cyprus. The nationality of the five is not known.

There are 64 on board the hijacked plane, including 56 passengers, seven EgyptAir crew members and one EgyptAir security official, the spokesperson said. There were earlier reports of 81 people on board.

Hijacker reportedly armed

There are unconfirmed reports the hijacker is armed, possibly with a suicide vest. EgyptAir said it could only confirm that there is one hijacker. 

EgyptAir flight 181 from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked on Tuesday shortly after take-off from Alexandria’s Burj Al Arab Airport at 6.30am Egypt time, the spokesperson said. 

Hijacked plane lands in Cyprus

The hijacker demanded that the aircraft land in Cyprus. It is currently on the ground at Larnaca International Airport.

The aircraft is an Airbus A320, the spokesperson said.

A Russian passenger jet crashed in the Egyptian Sinai shortly after take-off from Sharm Al Shaikh in October 2015 killing all 224 on board.

A Daesh affiliate claimed responsibility for bringing down the aircraft. Russian and Western countries have said they believed the flight was brought down by a bomb smuggled on board the aircraft.

Emirates, Qatar Airways flights diverted

Emirates and Qatar Airways diverted flights scheduled to land in Cyprus on Tuesday after Larnaca International was closed.
The Emirates flight was diverted to Athens in Greece and the Qatar Airways flight was diverted to Amman in Jordan, according to spokespersons from the airlines.

With input from Ramadan Sherbini, Correspondent