EgyptAir plane hijacked by man '˜trying to contact ex-wife'

A MAN who hijacked an EgyptAir plane and forced the pilot to fly it to Cyprus was attempting to get in touch with his ex-wife, according to reports.

The hijacked EgyptAir plane sits on the tarmac at Larnaca Airport. Picture: AFP

A number of Britons and an Irish national are thought to be have been aboard the aircraft which was diverted during an internal flight from Alexandria on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast to the capital Cairo.

Egyptian media named the hijacker as 27-year-old Ibrahim Samaha, which said that he wanted to claim asylum on the Mediterranean island. The man’s identity has not been confirmed.

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Negotiations have led to the release of all the passengers, except for the crew and four foreign passengers, the airline said.

The Airbus plane, flight MS181, landed at Larnaca airport at around 8.50am, police in Cyprus said.

EgyptAir said the captain, Omar Jamal, was alerted to the presence of a passenger who was reportedly wearing an explosives belt.

Footage showed the plane at a secluded spot at the airport and passengers disembarking calmly, walking down steps from the plane with their luggage and boarding waiting buses.

Egyptian government officials said the hijacker initially wanted to go to Istanbul in Turkey but was told by the captain there was not enough fuel.

FlightRadar24 map showing flight MS181's diversion to Larnaca. Picture: Contributed

The director of the Alexandria airport, Hossni Hassan, said 26 foreigners were aboard the flight, including eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, an Italian, a French national, two Greeks and one Syrian.

Three other foreigners could not be identified.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it is working with Cypriot and Egyptian authorities, while Ireland’s department of foreign affairs said it is liaising with consular staff in Egypt but could not confirm if an Irish citizen was on board the plane.

TV channels showed a photo of Samaha standing in what appears to be the back of the aircraft.

FlightRadar24 map showing flight MS181's diversion to Larnaca. Picture: Contributed

EgyptAir is offering those concerned about their loved ones possibly being on the flight several telephone numbers to call for more information.

The carrier said those within Egypt could call their emergency centre at 0800 77 77 000, while those living abroad can call (0020) 2 259 893 2029.