Egypt hijack suspect in Cyprus court

Seif Eldin Mustafa (C) flanked by Cypriot police as they leave a court in Larnaca.Image copyright

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The alleged hijacker demanded to see his ex-wife as soon as the plane landed in Cyprus

An Egyptian man accused of hijacking a domestic flight and forcing it to land in Cyprus on Tuesday using a fake suicide belt has appeared in court.

Judges at the Larnaca court, where the international airport is located, are assessing a request to keep Seif Eldin Mustafa in custody for eight days.

He has not been formally charged yet.

Cypriot authorities have described him as “psychologically unstable”. President Nicos Anastasiades has said the incident was not terrorism-related.

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How the hijacking unfolded

EgyptAir flight MS181 was carrying 56 passengers from Alexandria to Cairo, along with six crew and a security official, when it was diverted to Cyprus.

Media captionEgyptAir Flight MS181 hijacking suspect passes through airport security

During a stand-off lasting more than six hours, almost all passengers and crew were freed unharmed as authorities negotiated with Mr Mustafa.

One person, apparently a crew member, climbed out of a cockpit window, minutes before the suspect walked calmly out of the plane to surrender.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said Mr Mustafa had initially asked to speak with his Cypriot ex-wife, who police brought to the airport, before making a series of “incoherent” demands.

President Anastasiades had responded to a reporter’s question about whether the hijacker was motivated by romance, by laughing and saying: “Always there is a woman involved.”

A photograph showing a British man posing with the hijacker inside the plane has been widely circulated. Ben Innes told the Sun newspaper he was trying to get a better look at the device.

Airport security

A statement from Egypt’s civil aviation ministry said 26 foreign passengers were on board, including eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch citizens, two Belgians, two Greeks, a French national, an Italian and a Syrian.

Media captionA man was seen fleeing from a cockpit window shortly before the hijacker surrendered

Egyptian authorities said security measures had been “fully implemented” before the flight.

CCTV footage released by the interior ministry shows Mr Mustafa being frisked at two security checks and passing a slim bag through X-ray machines at Alexandria’s Borg El Arab airport.

The BBC’s Youssef Taha says Egypt has taken steps to improve airport security after Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 was blown up over Sinai last October.

Media captionCrew members and passengers who were on the hijacked plane have arrived back in Cairo

They include an extra $1bn (£690m) a year and a deal with British consultancy Control Risks to review procedures at Cairo, Sharm El-Sheikh and Marsa Alam airports.

Despite this, our correspondent says checks remain inconsistent, with many VIPs and MPs refusing to be searched and airport and airline staff routinely bypassing full security screening.

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A man believed to be the hijacker leaves the aircraft

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