An EgyptAir plane with 64 people on board has been hijacked and forced to land in Cyprus, where crew and some passengers are being held, the airline and government officials said.
The Egyptian civil-aviation ministry said the Airbus Group SE A320 single-aisle plane was headed from Alexandria to Cairo when it was hijacked by a passenger threatening to blow up an explosive vest. It landed at Larnaca International Airport, the main hub on the Mediterranean island.
EgyptAir confirmed in a statement that Flight 181 was hijacked with 56 passengers, 7 crew members and 1 of the airline’s security team on board.
After negotiating with the hijacker, the airline said most passengers had been released, apart from the crew and four non-Egyptian passengers.
Live footage on state television showed a place on deserted tarmac at the airport and lines of passengers leaving the jet and boarding waiting buses.
An official from the Department of Justice and Public Order in Cyprus confirmed the plane had landed but said there were no details about the condition of passengers.
Egypt’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement that the country’s ambassador to Cyprus was working with Cypriot officials in a situation room there.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades is contacting his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah Al Sisi to discuss the matter.
Larnaca’s airport had been closed and airlines including Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates Airline have diverted inbound flights.
The hijacking comes just months after a Russian jetliner was downed after departing Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh airport raising concern about security at Egyptian airports.
The Russian airliner crashed Oct. 31 en route to St. Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board. Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate Sinai Province claimed responsibility, saying it had smuggled a bomb onboard in retaliation for Russia’s military support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Egyptian investigators initially denied allegations of terrorism. The Russian and U.K. governments said terrorists had downed the plane.
In February, Mr. Sisi acknowledged that the plane had been brought down by terrorists who sought to harm Egypt’s relations with Russia. The crash decimated Egypt’s tourism industry, with Russia and the U.K., two of Egypt’s biggest tourism providers, suspending flights to the country over airport security concerns. Flights remain suspended almost six months later.
Egypt’s aviation ministry in December hired international consultancy Control Risks to audit its airport security in an attempt to rebuild confidence in the nation’s tourism infrastructure.
Source: The Wall street Journal