EgyptAir hijacker releases all passengers except staff, 5 foreigners

Negotiations with the hijacker of an EgyptAir plane that landed in Cyprus on Tuesday resulted in the release of all people on board except five foreigners and the flight crew, the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement. 

According to a statement from EgyptAir, 56 passengers, seven crew members and one security officer were on board flight 181 when it was hijacked on its flight from Alexandria to Cairo and forced to land at Cyprus' Larnaca International Airport.

There have been conflicting reports as to the number of foreign hostages, as some news outlets and EgyptAir's English-language Twitter account reported they were four. 

The nationality of the foreign hostages is still unknown. 

Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said previously in a statement that the Airbus 320 aircraft had 81 passengers on board.

The pilot of EgyptAir flight 181, Captain Amr al-Jamal, informed air traffic control that the flight had been threatened by a passenger claiming to be wearing an explosive belt and diverted to Cyprus, the Ministry said.

The hijacker, who may or may not have been working with accomplices, requested that women and children of Egyptian background disembark the aircraft after landing, Cyprus' state broadcaster RIK reported, citing government officials.

Egyptian state TV reported that the hijacker is an Egyptian national named Ibrahim Samaha, showing a picture of him taken in the plane cabin.

Larnaca airport, located on Cyprus' southern coast, has been closed until further notice, according to the RIK report. All flights to Cyprus have been diverted to Paphos in the west of the island.

Cyprus has opened a crisis hotline for those involved in the incident.

The incident comes as Cairo hopes Moscow will remove a flight ban imposed after a Russian jet returning from the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh exploded, killing all 224 people on board.

The explosion was claimed by the Islamic State extremist group and led Russia to ban all direct flights to Egypt, a critical blow to the country's beleaguered tourism sector which has been largely reliant on Russian customers in recent years.

Last update: Tue, 29/03/2016 - 11:02

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