EgyptAir plane hijacked to Cyprus most passengers freed
(MENAFN- The Peninsula) An official boards a hijackedEgyptairA320 Airbus at Larnaca Airport in Larnaca Cyprus March 29 2016. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
By Yiannis Kourtoglou
LARNACA: A man thought to be strappedwith explosives hijacked an Egyptian plane on a flight betweenAlexandria and Cairo on Tuesday and forced it to land in CyprusEgyptian officials said.
After the EgyptAir plane landed at Larnaca airport thehijacker released all the people onboard except five foreignpassengers and the crew EgyptAir said.
About 60 people including seven crew had been onboardEgyptian and Cypriot officials said.
"The negotiations with the hijacker have resulted in therelease of all the plane passengers with the exception of thecrew and five foreigners" the airline said in a statement.
Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said the plane's pilot Omaral-Gammal had informed authorities that he was threatened by apassenger wearing a suicide explosives belt and forced him toland in Larnaca.
A Cyprus Foreign Ministry official said he could not confirmthe man was rigged with explosives. The hijacking occurred inCyprus's flight information region.
The plane was an Airbus 320 Egypt's aviation ministry said.
Eyptian state media named the hijacker as Ibrahim Samaha anEgyptian but gave no other details about him.
Passengers on the plane included eight Britons and 10Americans three security sources at Alexandria airport said.
Israel scrambled warplanes in its airspace as a precautionin response to the hijacking according to an Israeli militarysource.
Egypt's vital tourism industry was already reeling from thecrash of a Russian passenger plane in the Sinai in late October.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said it was brought downby a terrorist attack. Islamic State has said it planted a bombon board killing all 224 people on board.
Cyprus has seen little militant activity for decadesdespite its proximity to the Middle East.
A botched attempt by Egyptian commandos to storm a hijackedairliner at Larnaca airport led to the disruption of diplomaticrelations between Cyprus and Egypt in 1978.
In 1988 a Kuwaiti airliner which had been hijacked fromBangkok to Kuwait in a 16-day seige had a stopover in Larnacawhere two hostages were killed.