An intense hostage situation on a hijacked EgyptAir flight ended after several hours of negotiation on Tuesday, March 29, in what is being described as a probable "personal" matter between a hijacker and his ex-wife.
The crisis started on EgyptAir Flight MS181, which was on its way from Alexandria to Cairo. En route, a hijacker claimed that he was wearing a suicide belt and demanded that the plane land in Turkey or Cyprus, officials told NBC News. The pilot then redirected the flight to the port city of Larnaca in Cyprus just before 8 a.m. local time (1 a.m. ET), and negotiations started from there, EgyptAir officials said.
CNN spoke to a passenger who revealed exactly what happened inside the aircraft. "Apparently the hijacker didn’t make any speeches on board," a CNN correspondent said. "He was at the back of the plane the whole time, giving directions to the crew."
EgyptAir live-tweeted the tense situation, as did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Cyprus.
An EGYPTAIR official declared that 3 passengers, the pilot, co-pilot and 3 cabin crew members in addition to the hijacker are still onboard.— EGYPTAIR (@EGYPTAIR) March 29, 2016
Update: the concerned departments are working on issuing the landing authorization for an aircraft to depart from Cairo Airport to Larnaca.— EGYPTAIR (@EGYPTAIR) March 29, 2016
Official sources at EGYPTAIR declared the release of all the hostages and the arrest of the hijacker. #EgyptAir— EGYPTAIR (@EGYPTAIR) March 29, 2016
All of the passengers on board were freed from the plane, except several crew members and foreign passengers. The hijacker, later identified as Seif Eldin Mustafa, spent the first few hours asking for his ex-wife, who lives in Cyprus.
An operations source told NBC News: "Our people, they were talking to him all the time in order to keep him busy and allow people to come out." The operations source added to NBC that Mustafa requested asylum and access to an EU employee. Hours later, the ministry announced that the hijacker was in custody.
Investigators revealed that Mustafa, though unstable and now in custody, had no explosives on him.
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