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Cyprus Remands Suspected Hijacker Who Wanted to See Ex-Wife - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The man who was arrested after he hijacked an EgyptAir flight, which was forced to land in Cyprus on Tuesday, gestures as he is transferred by Cypriot police from a court in the city of Larnaca, Cyprus March 30, 2016. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

The man who was arrested after he hijacked an EgyptAir flight, which was forced to land in Cyprus on Tuesday, gestures as he is transferred by Cypriot police from a court in the city of Larnaca, Cyprus March 30, 2016. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

An Egyptian man who was thought to be strapped with explosives hijacked an EgyptAir plane on Tuesday while flying from the Egyptian Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria to the capital, Cairo.

He told police he acted because he wanted to see his estranged wife and children, saying “what should one do?”.

Cypriot and Egyptian authorities have identified the suspect as Seif Eldin Mustafa, aged 59. Mustafa surrendered to authorities Tuesday after diverting the domestic Alexandria-Cairo flight to Larnaca airport with all 72 passengers, including 21 foreigners and 15 crew members, on board.

A Larnaca court on Wednesday ordered him to be held in custody for eight days on suspicion of hijacking, abduction, threatening violence, terrorism-related offences and two counts related to possession of explosives.

The latter counts were connected to his claim of being strapped with explosives, even though the belt he wore is believed to be fake, a police source told Reuters.

As he left the court compound in a police jeep, Mustafa stuck his hand out of an open window flashing the ‘v’ sign for victory.

The hijacker took charge of the early morning flight by flashing what appears to be a belt stuffed with plastic wires and a remote control, directing it to the holiday island where he asked for the release of female prisoners in Egypt, and to come in contact with his Cypriot ex-wife.

“When someone hasn’t seen his family for 24 years and wants to see his wife and children, and the Egyptian government doesn’t allow it, what should one do?,” he told Cypriot police in a statement.

Details of his claimed predicament were not available.

All hostages were released unharmed after a six-hour standoff.

The suspect allegedly commandeered the aircraft 15 minutes after takeoff from Alexandria. He approached a flight attendant and showed off the belt, attached to a remote control he held in his hand, investigating Officer Andreas Lambrianou told the court.

“The suspect asked all passengers and crew to hand in their passports, then gave two messages to a member of the crew, asking that the pilot be informed that he was a hijacker and wanted to land at an airport in Turkey, Greece or Cyprus, but preferably Cyprus,” Lambrianou said.

“In a note, he stressed that if the airplane landed on Egyptian territory he would immediately blow the plane up.”

In Cyprus, the hijacker dropped an envelope on the runway addressed to a Cypriot woman, later ascertained to be his ex-wife. In the letter, the suspect demanded the release of 63 female prisoners held in Egypt.

Egypt’s public prosecutor has asked Cypriot authorities to hand over Seif Eldin Mustafa, Egyptian state television reported on Wednesday.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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