EgyptAir hijacker arrested, hostage situation over

By Shawn Price and Andrew V. Pestano  |  March 29, 2016 at 3:35 AM
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CAIRO, March 29 (UPI) -- The hijacker who forced an EgyptAir domestic flight to divert to Cyprus on Tuesday has been arrested, ending a tense hostage negotiation.

The Cyprus' foreign ministry said Seif Eldin Mustafa was arrested after several people were seen leaving the plane. Mustafa likely took the plane over a personal matter involving his ex-wife, not as part of a terror plot, officials said.

He is accused of hijacking the plane by telling those onboard he was wearing an explosive vest. EgyptAir Flight MS181 was en route from Alexandria to Cairo when Mustafa allegedly ordered the plane to land in Turkey or Cyprus.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the hijacking is not a terrorist incident.

The plane -- carrying from 55 to 81 passengers -- was diverted to an airport in Cyprus' port city of Lanarca, where authorities began negotiating with Mustafa. Most passengers were freed after landing, but some were held back as negotiations continued. Mustafa requested to speak to a Cypriot woman who is reportedly his ex-wife.

Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said passengers included eight Americans, four Dutch citizens and one person each from France, Italy and Syria. A flight manifest has not yet been released.

Authorities have not determined if Mustafa has explosives.

"This will come as an outcome of the investigation," Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy Ateyya said in a press conference. "The reality is that we have a hijacker on board of a plane. We are not sure whether what he has are true... But we are dealing with it as a real threat because we cannot take any risks."

"The pilot said that a passenger told him he had an explosives vest and forced the plane to land in Larnaca," the Egyptian civil aviation ministry said in a statement.

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