Seif Eldin Mustafa named as EgyptAir hijacker 'demanding the release of political prisoners in Egypt'

Egyptian officials say of hijacker: 'He's not a terrorist, he's an idiot'

Adam Withnall
Tuesday 29 March 2016 11:32 BST

Officials in Cyprus have identified the hijacker of an EgyptAir flight to Cairo as Seif Eldin Mustafa, amid reports he has demanded the release of political prisoners.

The new reports paint a dramatic new light on a story which Egyptian officials had appeared to play down, describing the man as an Egyptian doctor who wanted to get a message to his Cypriot wife.

After the plane carrying 55 passengers was hijacked and diverted to Larnaca airport in Cairo, an unnamed Egyptian official told the Guardian: “He's not a terrorist, he's an idiot.”

The Cypriot foreign affairs ministry named the hijacker in a tweet at around 11am BST, a couple of hours after he was mistakenly identified by the Egyptian government as Dr Ibrahim Samaha.

There are still seven people being held hostage on board the plane including three passengers whose nationalities are known to the authorities but which have not been made public.

The Airbus A320 has been sat on the tarmac at Larnaca airport in Cyprus now since around 7am, during which time the majority of the 55 passengers on board have been released.

The hijacker declared he had a suicide belt while the jet was en route from Alexandria to Cairo this morning, and demanded the pilot land.

Earlier, the man was named by officials as Dr Samaha, an Egyptian vet based at the university in Alexandria. But that has since been called into question – not least when Dr Samaha himself spoke to the BBC to say he was a passenger on the flight and had since been released, rather than the hijacker himself.

Whatever the motive for the hijacking, the incident has led to renewed concerns about Egyptian aviation security.

Cairo airport has delayed the departure of a New York-bound airplane due to security fears related to the hijacking, two security officials told Reuters.

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