Hijacker asking for release of prisoners in Egypt; Cyprus suspends air operations
LATEST: Everyone on board a hijacked EgyptAir flight diverted to Cyrus on Tuesday has been released except for four crew members and three passengers, Egypt's civil aviation minister said.
Sherif Fathy told a press conference that the captain, a co-pilot, an air hostess and a security man remained on board, along with the three passengers.
He said there had been 55 passengers on board the plane, which was headed from Alexandria to Cairo, when the hijacker demanded it land in either Turkey or Cyprus.
The aviation ministry had earlier said 81 people were on board.
"He had no gun or anything. We don't know yet whether his (explosives) belt is real but for the safety of passengers we are dealing with it as real," he said.
A plane will head to Larnaca at 1030 GMT to pick up the released passengers, he said.
EARLIER REPORT: The hijacker of an EgyptAir flight, Ibrahim Abdel Tawwab Samaha, is a professor of veterinary medicine at Alexandria University, a staff list on the university website shows.
Cyprus has suspended all air operations. In a statement on its official website, authority Hermes Airports has stated: “Flights out of Larnaca have been temporarily suspended and diverted to Paphos Airport.”
Negotiations are currently underway between Cypriot authorities and a hijacker aboard the Egypt Air flight.
Cyprus Foreign Ministry Official says, it is thought one hijacker onboard EgyptAir plane in Larnaca; Cannot confirm if strapped with explosives.
A bus carrying some passengers from the hijacked EgyptAir aircraft after it landed at Larnaca airport (AP)
Between 30 and 40 passengers released.
Cypriot official says, “Egypt plane hijackers allow women, children to leave; some now disembarking.”
An official boards a hijacked Egyptair A320 Airbus at Larnaca Airport in Cyprus, March 29, 2016 (Reuters)
Pilot of hijacked plane was threatened by a passenger with suicide belt, says Civil Aviation Ministry.
In an official statement, the airline further stated: “Egypt Air Airbus 320 flight is carrying 81 passengers and was flying from Alexandria Airport to Cairo when it was hijacked.”
The airline added the pilot was informed of the existence of a threat from a passenger who stated he has an explosive belt in his possession, forcing him to land the plane at Larnaca Airport, Cyprus.
Cypriot authorities are currently dealing with the situation, EgyptAir further added.
The hijacker asked police to back away from the aircraft, reported Reuters.
Earlier, the airline tweeted: "Our flight MS181 is officially hijacked. we'll publish an official statement now."
An Egyptair domestic flight from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked on Tuesday and landed in Cyprus, state radio said.
The Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation reported that 55 people were on board, with a crew of 7.
There were earlier reports of about 80 to 81 people on board.
At least one man was thought to be armed.
The hijacking occurred in Cyprus's flight information region and the airliner was diverted to Larnaca.
Meanwhile, a Cypriot government official says the hijacked plane landed on Tuesday morning at the airport in Larnaca and that there are suspicions of a bomb on board.
A second Cypriot official says there "seems like there's more than one hijacker." He says there have been no demands other than that police vehicles move away from the aircraft.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.
The statement from the Egyptian aviation authority says the MS181 is an Airbus and that it has 55 passengers on board and five crew members.