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EgyptAir hijacker wanted to 'see wife and children'

Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 30/03/2016

The hijacker of an EgyptAir flight from Alexandria to Cairo has told police he acted because he wanted to see his estranged wife and children in Cyprus.

The 59-year-old, identified as Seif el-Din Mustafa, took charge of Tuesday's early morning flight MS181 by flashing what appeared to be a belt stuffed with plastic wires and a remote control.

He forced the plane, with 81 people on board, to be diverted to Larnaca in Cyprus but surrendered after a five-hour standoff.

EgyptAir hijacker wanted to 'see wife and children': The 59-year-old Egyptian, who surrendered after a five-hour standoff, had not "seen his family for 24 years". © Provided by Al Jazeera The 59-year-old Egyptian, who surrendered after a five-hour standoff, had not "seen his family for 24 years".

A Larnaca court on Wednesday ordered Mustafa 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.

"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," the hijacker told Cypriot police in a statement.

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 news agency.

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 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 up the plane."

At Larnaca airport, Mustafa 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.

Passengers and crew members of the hijacked plane were brought to Cairo from Larnaca on Tuesday night, sharing the ordeal they went through on-board.


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