The Egyptian Ministry of Aviation confirmed on Tuesday that EgyptAir Airbus A320 MS181 from Alexandria headed for the capital Cairo had been hijacked shortly after takeoff and landed in Larnaca, Cyprus.
Most of the 64 passengers and crew were released at 11am local time, but three crew members, three passangers, a security officer and the hijacker remained on board.
The hijacker at press time remains unidentified. No demands have been made although Cypriot officials told Reuters that the hijacker had wanted to contact his former wife who lived on the island.
An Alexandria airport official said most of the passengers on board were Egyptian, but that there some foreigners on the flight.
At a press conference in Cairo, Egyptian Minister of Aviation Sherif Fathi Atteya told reporters that the authorities “are being cautious with the hijacker’s claims that he is wearing an explosive belt”.
“We cannot be sure but we have to be cautious,” Atteya said.
Egyptian security at airports has been tightened since the late October downing of a Russian airline Kogalymavia Airbus A321 under the brand name Metrojet, flying from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg.
The plane crashed in the Sinai peninsula; all 224 on board were killed.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for downing the Metrojet flight.
The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies