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Mother scolds man who posed for photo with plane hijacker

Published 31/03/2016

The hijacked EgyptAir jet in Cyprus on Tuesday (AP)
The hijacked EgyptAir jet in Cyprus on Tuesday (AP)

The mother of a British hostage photographed with the Egyptian plane hijacker wearing a "suicide vest" has branded her son's actions "stupid".

Pauline Innes scolded her son Ben as he arrived back in the UK less than 48 hours after the image emerged of him stood grinning next to a man who claimed to have smuggled a bomb belt on board.

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

His decision to pose for the snap, which was printed on newspaper front pages, has attracted criticism.

As Mr Innes was collected by his mother from Manchester Airport late on Wednesday she said "I don't know why you did it," according to The Sun.

Mustafa, 59, is understood to have revealed the fake suicide belt soon after the flight to Cairo took off, triggering an emergency diversion to Cyprus.

Meanwhile Mr Innes is said to have contacted his mother soon after the drama began to reassure her he would keep a low profile.

However, at some point during the five-hour stand-off, the 26-year-old decided to "throw caution to the wind while trying to stay cheerful in the face of adversity" and pose for a picture with his captor.

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.

"Mum was very upset seeing me, but I made it safe and sound," he told the newspaper as he arrived back in the UK.

"The past two days have been crazy, unbelievable. But I'm here now and things can get back to normal. I'll be relaxing at home with Mum," he added.

Mrs Innes told The Sun that he had not posed for a "selfie" with the hijacker, who was described as "psychologically unstable" by Cypriot officials.

"You can clearly see that it is not Ben who is taking the picture," she said.

On Wednesday a picture of another hostage posing with Mustafa emerged. It appeared to show an air stewardess, named in reports as Naira Atef, smiling and standing next to him.

In an article on social media for the Daily Mail, broadcaster John Humphrys questioned Mr Innes's decision to pose for the snap.

He wrote: "The photo was the perfect demonstration of this strange new urge to be the star of your own social media show, even in a situation when minutes earlier people thought they were going to die."

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.

The incident comes just five months after 224 people were killed when a Russian aircraft crashed over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula minutes after it took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

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