The man holding 11 people, including four ‘foreigners’, hostage on an Egyptian passenger jet after hijacking the plane with a suicide vest, is demanding to see his Cypriot ex-wife.
Ibrahim Samaha, 27, has asked negotiators at Larnaca airport for political asylum in Cyprus – and for them to give a four-page letter to his ex-wife who lives on the island.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has rubbished claims that the hijacking is an act of terrorism, stating: ‘Terrorists are crazy but they aren’t stupid – this guy is’.
Airport officials are onboard the plane and have yet to find any explosives, as Samaha’s ex-wife is said to be making her way to Larnaca.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement : ‘He’s not a terrorist, he’s an idiot. Terrorists are crazy but they aren’t stupid. This guy is,’ according to journalist Ruth Michaelson.
Egyptian media reports that Samaha has dual US-Egyptian citizenship, and is a professor of veterinary medicine at Alexandria University who has taught in America.
EgyptAir MS181, carrying 62 people, including eight Brits and ten Americans, was en-route from Alexandria to Cairo when it was hijacked, forcing it to land on Cyprus.
Negotiations with Samaha has since resulted in the release of a majority of the hostages, except for the crew and four foreigners, EgyptAir said.
Samaha continues to hold the crew and four passengers of unknown nationalities hostage on the tarmac at Larnaca.
The hijacking of the plane, carrying 55 passengers and a crew of seven, was confirmed by EgyptAir on Twitter at 7.40am GMT.
The plane diverted to Cyprus after the captain, Omar Jamal, was alerted to the presence of a passenger who was wearing an explosive belt.
Egyptian newsite Youm7 is reporting that Samaha ordered the pilot to fly to Turkey but was told they did not have enough fuel.
The plane landed at Larnaca airport at around 8.50am (6.50am GMT), police in Cyprus said.
Cypriot government officials said that after the plane landed, the hijackers demanded that police vehicles move away from the aircraft.
Questions have been raised as to how the hijacker was able to embark on the plane wearing the suicide vest.
Egyptian authorities promised to tighten airport security in the wake of the downing of a Russian Metrojet airplane in October last year, where all 224 passengers died.
Investigations later found that explosives had been smuggled onto the Airbus A321-231, most likely at Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, which then crashed minutes after it took off from the Red Sea resort.