NICOSIA, March 29. /TASS/. The hijacker of an A320 jet of EgyptAir used cellphone cases to build a hoax bomb, Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulidis told journalists Tuesday.
The Greek newspaper Proto Thema cited Kasoulidis as saying that the hijacker’s "ammunition" actually consisted of cellphone cases. "We had such a suspicion, but we had to take all required measures," the foreign minister said.
He said an operation to free hostages, which could have also involved Egyptian special forces officers and a negotiator speaking Arabic, was being prepared. "Ultimately, their involvement was not needed," he said.
The minister said the hijacker surrendered after the Cypriot government rejected his demand to fuel the jet in order to fly to Istanbul.
The Egyptian authorities said the jet was hijacked by Egyptian Seif ad-Din Mustafa Muhammed Imam, born in 1957, a native of the Helwan Governorate, who had repeatedly had problems with the law. A few criminal cases had been opened against him on theft, fraud, document forgery and drugs charges.
The A320 passenger jet of EgyptAir, bound from Alexandria to Cairo, was hijacked Tuesday morning at 08:05 a.m. Moscow Time (05:05 a.m. UTC). At 05:50 a.m. UTC, it landed in the airport of the Cypriot city of Larnaca. There are no exact data yet how many people there were on board the hijacked plane.
Egypt’s civil aviation ministry reported that there were 55 people on board. EgyptAir posted the following information: 56 passengers, seven crew and one security officer. Earlier, the airline tweeted that there were 81 people on board. Initial reports said that there could be a bomb on board the hijacked airliner but the report was not confirmed.
Several hours after the plane landed in Larnaca, most hostages were allowed to disembark. Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy later told reporters that seven people, including three passengers, remained onboard the aircraft.
Among the hostages were pilot, second pilot, flight hostess and security officer, the minister said. At 2:30 p.m. Moscow time (11:30 a.m. UTC) all the hostages were released.
An airport representative said the evacuated passengers are expected to return to Egypt late on Tuesday.