Cyprus (Larnaca, Reuters/NAN)
An Egyptian plane on a flight between Alexandria and Cairo was on Tuesday hijacked and forced to land in Cyprus by a man apparently distressed over a family matter.
EgyptAir said in Larnaca (Cyprus) that after the plane landed at Larnaca airport the hijacker released all the passengers onboard, except four foreign passengers and the crew following negotiations.
Egyptian and Cypriot officials said not less than 60 people, including seven crew had been onboard the Airbus 320.
They said the pilot reported that the man was strapped with explosives, although this was not confirmed.
Egyptian 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 who forced him to land in Larnaca.
An Eyptian state media named the hijacker as Ibrahim Samaha, an Egyptian, but gave no other details about him.
However, Gamal al-Omrawi, Deputy Dean at Alexandria University, has denounced the statement, saying that Samaha was a passenger on the plane and not the hijacker.
He said he had spoken by phone to Samaha, who confirmed that he was one of the passengers who were released.
Meanwhile, the Cypriot security said that the motives of the hijacker appeared personal and he had asked to contact his ex-wife, who lives in Cyprus.
Cypriot President, Nicos Anastasiades, said it has nothing to do with terrorism.
The Cyprus Foreign Ministry official said he could not confirm the man was rigged with explosives.
It said the hijacking occurred in Cyprus’s flight information region.
Meanwhile, 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 security sources at Alexandria airport said, the passengers on the plane included eight Britons and 10 Americans.