EgyptAir siege ends as hijacker is arrested

CNBC with news agencies
A man climbs out of the cockpit window of the hijacked Egyptair Airbus A320 at Larnaca Airport in Larnaca, Cyprus, March 29, 2016.
Yiannis Kourtoglou | Retuers

The alleged hijacker of an EgyptAir plane has been arrested after hours of tense negotiations, according to Cypriot police, freeing his remaining hostages and emerging from the grounded plane with his hands up.

The man – said to be in an "unstable psychological state" and believed by authorities to be Egyptian – had held a number of hostages but the Cypriot authorities said the incident was "now over."


There were several conflicting reports, some of which NBC News is unable to confirm, on the incident in Larnaca airport where the plane was diverted from its Alexandria-Cairo flight earlier in the morning.

Ahead of his surrender and arrest, the lone alleged hijacker had released most of the passengers and crew with only three passengers, the pilot, co-pilot and three cabin crew still on board at the end of the siege.


There have been a number of conflicting theories about the alleged hijacker's motivations but the incident was not believed to be terror-related and the individual had asked to speak to a person, believed to be his ex-wife, who lives in Cyprus.

EgyptAir passenger plane hijacked
EgyptAir passenger plane hijacked

At first media reports suggested that the hijacking could have been motivated by a "personal" matter involving a woman, a high-level source told NBC News. However, after reports that the man was demanding the release of female Egyptian hostages, the underlying motives of the hostage-taker became more unclear.

Cyprus' foreign ministry said that during negotiations with the alleged hijacker, he appeared to be "unstable," Reuters reported.

"What we have that it's not about terrorism. It appears to be a person who is unstable, in an unstable psychological state and the issue is being handled accordingly," foreign ministry official Alexandros Zenon said ahead of the end of the siege.

Despite the confused picture of the incident, Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters Tuesday that the event was not being treated as terrorism-related.

Egyptian foreign ministry officials were also quoted as saying that the hijacker was an "idiot" rather than a terrorist, but this was later denied by the ministry.

There were a reported 81 passengers and crew on the plane including 10 Americans, a number of Britons and one Irish passenger, according to airport security.

Images from the airport showed many passengers calmly disembarking the aircraft with their luggage.


According to an earlier report by Reuters, quoting Cyprus Broadcasting, the alleged hijacker was thought to be strapped with explosives. Local police had been asked to move back from the aircraft although there are now doubts there are any explosives on board.

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NBC News and Reuters contributed to this story.