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EgyptAir flight MS181: Hijacker arrested and hostage situation ends after Cairo-bound plane is forced to land in Cyprus

A man (R) believed to be the hijacker of the EgyptAir Airbus A-320, which was diverted to Cyprus, surrenders to security forces after a six-hour standoff on the tarmac at Larnaca airport's largely disused old terminal on March 29, 2016. The hijacker who seized the Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Cyprus has been detained, Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said. / AFP PHOTO / GEORGE MICHAELGEORGE MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images
A man (R) believed to be the hijacker of the EgyptAir Airbus A-320, which was diverted to Cyprus, surrenders to security forces after a six-hour standoff on the tarmac at Larnaca airport's largely disused old terminal on March 29, 2016. The hijacker who seized the Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Cyprus has been detained, Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said. / AFP PHOTO / GEORGE MICHAELGEORGE MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images
A man believed to be the hijacker of the EgyptAir Airbus A-320, which was diverted to Cyprus, leaves the plane before surrendering to security forces after a six-hour standoff on the tarmac at Larnaca airport's largely disused old terminal on March 29, 2016. The hijacker who seized the Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Cyprus has been detained, Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said. / AFP PHOTO / GEORGE MICHAELGEORGE MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images
The remaining passengers on the highjacked EgyptAir Airbus A-320, which was diverted to Cyprus, run on the tarmac after leaving the plane as the highjacker surrendered to security forces after a six-hour standoff at Larnaca airport's largely disused old terminal on March 29, 2016. The hijacker who seized the Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Cyprus has been detained, Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said. / AFP PHOTO / GEORGE MICHAELGEORGE MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images
A man climbs out of the cockpit window an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 parked at the tarmac of Larnaca airport. / AFP PHOTO / BEHROUZ MEHRIBEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
A man climbs out of the cockpit window an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 parked at the tarmac of Larnaca airport after being hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016. The hijacker who seized the Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Cyprus has been detained, Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said. / AFP PHOTO / BEHROUZ MEHRIBEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
A bus carrying some passengers from the hijacked EgyptAir aircraft as at it landed at Larnaca airport Tuesday, March 29, 2016. An EgyptAir plane was hijacked on Tuesday while flying from the Egyptian Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria to the capital, Cairo, and later landed in Cyprus where some of the women and children were allowed to get off the aircraft, according to Egyptian and Cypriot officials. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Cypriot policemen stand guard in the vicinity of Larnaca airport where an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 (C) sits on the tarmac after being hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016. A hijacker seized an Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Cyprus, but nearly all of the passengers were quickly released and officials said the incident was not linked to terrorism. / AFP PHOTO / BEHROUZ MEHRIBEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
An Egypt Air Airbus A-320 sits on the tarmac of Larnaca aiport after it was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / STRSTR/AFP/Getty Images
Cypriot policemen stand guard in the vicinity of Larnaca airport where an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 (R) sits on the tarmac after being hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016. A hijacker seized an Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Cyprus, but nearly all of the passengers were quickly released and officials said the incident was not linked to terrorism. / AFP PHOTO / BEHROUZ MEHRIBEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
Passengers of an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 which was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus stand at Larnaca airport after disembarking the plane on March 29, 2016. A hijacker seized the Egyptian airliner and diverted it to Cyprus, before releasing all the passengers except four foreigners and the crew, officials and the airline said. / AFP PHOTO / GEORGE MICHAELGEORGE MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images
Passengers of an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 which was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus stand at Larnaca airport after disembarking the plane on March 29, 2016. A hijacker seized the Egyptian airliner and diverted it to Cyprus, before releasing all the passengers except four foreigners and the crew, officials and the airline said. / AFP PHOTO / GEORGE MICHAELGEORGE MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images
Passengers of an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 which was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus stand at Larnaca airport after disembarking the plane on March 29, 2016. A hijacker seized the Egyptian airliner and diverted it to Cyprus, before releasing all the passengers except four foreigners and the crew, officials and the airline said. / AFP PHOTO / GEORGE MICHAELGEORGE MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images
Image taken from Flightradar24 of EgyptAir plane MS181 which has landed in Cyprus after being hijacked while flying from Alexandria to Cairo, officials said.
An Egypt Air Airbus A-320 sits on the tarmac of Larnaca aiport after it was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / STRSTR/AFP/Getty Images
An Egypt Air Airbus A-320 sits on the tarmac of Larnaca aiport after it was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / STRSTR/AFP/Getty Images

A seven-hour hijack situation which forced an EgyptAir Airbus A320 to land in Cyprus while flying from Alexandria to Cairo has ended.

The EgyptAir plane with 55 passengers onboard diverted to Larnaca airport on the Mediterranean island mid-way through a domestic flight from Alexandria to Cairo on Tuesday which departed at 8am (5am UK time).

A hijacker contacted the control tower at 8.30am and the plane was given permission to land at 8.50am.

The hijacker gradually allowed the majority of passengers to leave the aircraft, however, negotiations were ongoing as seven people including three passengers were held on the plane.

Handout CCTV footage posted on the official Facebook page of Egypt's Ministry of Interior showing alleged hijacker Seif Eldin Mustafa passing through security at Alexandria before boarding EgyptAir MS181.Ministry of Interior /PA Wire
Handout CCTV footage posted on the official Facebook page of Egypt's Ministry of Interior showing alleged hijacker Seif Eldin Mustafa passing through security at Alexandria before boarding EgyptAir MS181.Ministry of Interior /PA Wire

During the ordeal, aviation minister Sherif Fathi did not reveal the nationalities of those being held on the plane.

Claims were also made that the hijacker was wearing an explosive belt which airline officials later said was fake.

CCTV images have shown the man who carried out the hijacking passing through airport security.

The director of the Alexandria airport, Hossni Hassan, said there were 26 foreigners on board, including eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, a French national, an Italian, two Greeks and one Syrian.

He said three other foreigners could not be identified.

Sky News reported that there was one Irish person on the flight.

As the situation came to a dramatic end, images showed a man in uniform climbing out of the cockpit and a further three people exiting via the stairs of the aircraft before the hijacker was arrested.

The situation ended at around 12.45pm UK time.

Alexandros Zenon, the permanent secretary of the foreign ministry in Cyprus, confirmed the hijacker's surrender and subsequent arrest, saying the situation was "over". The arrest was also reported by Egypt's prime minister, Sharif Ismail, and civil aviation minister Sharif Fathi.

"All passengers and crew are safe," Mr Fathi said on state television.

Mr Fathi said the hijacker had not made "concrete demands". He was described as "unstable" by a Cyprus foreign ministry official.

Initially it was alleged that "personal motives" were behind the hijacker's action in that he wanted to see his ex-wife who is Cypriot.

A civil aviation official said the man gave negotiators the name of a woman who lives in Cyprus and asked to give her an envelope. It is unclear what relationship she and the man have had.

The BBC reported that the man's estranged wife lived close to the airport and travelled to the scene of the incident.

However, the Cyprus state broadcaster claimed the hijacker was also asking for prisoners in Egypt to be released.

According to reports the hijacker also demanded a translator and political asylum in Cyprus.

Suicide belts have been a weapon of choice for Islamic militants in the Middle East.

The Aviation minister later said they did not know whether the explosives belt the hijacker claimed to be wearing was real or not.

Egypt sent a plane to Cyprus to pick up the stranded passengers.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the incident was not terror related, describing it as "unprecedented".

The Guardian quoted a foreign ministry official in Cairo as saying: "He's not a terrorist, he's an idiot. Terrorists are crazy but they aren't stupid. This guy is."

However, Egypt's foreign ministry denied making the comment to the Guardian.

The hijacking will again raise questions over security at Egyptian airports, five months after a Russian aircraft crashed over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula minutes after it took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

All 224 people on board were killed in that crash. Russia later said an explosive device brought down the aircraft, and the extremist Islamic State group (IS) said it was responsible.

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