Hijacked plane lands in Cyprus with suspected bomb

A policeman stands guard at Larnaca Airport near a hijacked EgyptAir A320 (Reuters)
A policeman stands guard at Larnaca Airport near a hijacked EgyptAir A320 (Reuters)

An Egyptair domestic flight from Alexandria to Cairo has been hijacked and made to land in Cyprus, with dozens of passengers held hostage on board.

The hijacker has indicated all passengers will be freed, except the crew and four foreigners, the airline has tweeted.

The pilot of the plane was threatened by a passenger strapped with explosives, Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry says.

The Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation reports that 55 passengers were on board along with a crew of seven. However, other reports suggest as many as 81 people on the plane.

The hijacking occurred on Tuesday morning (local time) in Cyprus's flight information region and the airliner was diverted to Larnaca.

The plane is an Airbus 320, Egypt's aviation ministry says.

The ministry said in a statement pilot Omar al-Gammal informed authorities he was threatened by a passenger who claimed to possess a suicide belt and forced him to land in Larnaca.

CYBC said the aeroplane was parked at an apron at Larnaca airport.

The hijacker asked police to back away from the aircraft, it said.

Hijacked plane lands in Cyprus with suspected bomb

Israel scrambled warplanes in its airspace as a precaution in response to the hijacking, according to an Israeli military source.

Other reports citing Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry say as many as 81 passengers were aboard the plane when it landed.

A senior Alexandria airport official said those on board the flight when it took off included eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, one Italian and 30 Egyptians.

The hijacker, who may or may not have been working with accomplices, requested that women and children of Egyptian background disembark the aircraft after landing, Cyprus' state broadcaster RIK reported, citing government officials.

Larnaca airport, located on Cyprus' southern coast, has been closed until further notice, according to the RIK report.

All flights to Cyprus have been diverted to Paphos in the west of the island.

Cyprus has opened a crisis hotline for those involved in the incident.

No motive has been confirmed, but there are suggestions the man has asked for a letter to be delivered to his ex-wife, who is said to live in Cyprus.

The country's president has said the incident is not related to terrorism.

Newshub. / DPA / Reuters