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'Being unafraid defeats terrorist agenda,' says Briton who posed with hijacker

Published 01/04/2016

Screen grabbed image of EgyptAir plane MS181
Screen grabbed image of EgyptAir plane MS181

The British hostage photographed with the alleged Egyptian plane hijacker wearing a fake suicide vest said he posed for the snap to laugh in the face of terrorism.

Ben Innes, 26, from Leeds, was widely criticised after being pictured grinning next to Seif Eddin Mustafa, who claimed to have smuggled a bomb belt on board, forcing the plane to redirect to Cyprus.

In an interview with BBC News, Mr Innes defended the controversial picture and said he decided to get up close to the hostage taker to figure out if the bomb was real or fake.

And he said if the worst came to the worst his family would know he died as he lived "making the best out of every situation I am in".

He said: "I wanted to interact with this guy. I wanted him to understand I wasn't a threat and if I needed to be in his space at a later time he would know, it would have already happened and he would be able to feel comfortable around me rather than seeing me approach him for the first time as the situation got tense maybe later on. You don't know what is going to happen.

"I also wanted to get a closer look at his bomb. I've got no expertise in that field, but there might have been a tell-tale sign it was fake or real and I wanted to assure myself one way or another.

"I also just thought if the worst comes to the worst I want my family and friends to know I died how I lived, having as much fun as I can and making the best out of every situation I am in. I think that picture of me is suitable for my epitaph - it is fine by me.

"As well with terrorism, the whole idea is to instil fear and so by simply being unafraid you are defeating the terrorist agenda totally, and so that was in the forefront of my mind."

Mr Innes said he did not have second thoughts as he got closer to Mustafa, and was determined to take the picture.

"This photo, this opportunity - I'm taking it. I'm working towards that. I was very calm as I approached him", he said.

"I wanted him to understand that I was approachable."

Mr Innes said he wanted Mustafa to "see me as a human, not just an expendable".

The health and safety auditor was one of 72 passengers and crew taken hostage soon after their EgyptAir flight took off from Alexandria on Tuesday.

The snap, in which the hijacker can be seen wearing a khaki-coloured fabric belt with a series of pouches wired together, went viral after it was posted on social media.

The Cypriot court ordered Mustafa to be detained for eight days as he faces charges including hijacking, illegal possession of explosives, kidnapping and threats to commit violence.

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