An EgpytAir flight traveling from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked earlier today and forced to fly to Cyprus. The plane landed safely and most of the passengers were released, according to news reports:
A spokesman for the Cyprus Ministry of Transport said the incident is not related to terrorism, but rather the hijacker’s ex-wife.EgyptAir Flight MS181, en route from Alexandria, Egypt, to Cairo, was forced to land at Larnaca airport in Cyprus.Pilot Omar El Gamal reported a threat from a passenger claiming to have an explosive belt, the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry said.Aviation Ministry spokesman Ehab Raslan said he doesn’t think the hijacker actually has explosives.“I doubt that he had explosives because security has been heightened across all Egyptian airports. But we will be able to confirm later,” Raslan said.
This doesn’t appear to be terrorism, and that’s kind of what struck me about this story. Early reports are that the hijacker claimed to have a belt or vest with explosives. In theory, he threatened to blow up the plane if the crew didn’t follow his orders. Upon landing, he demanded to see his (assumedly estranged) wife.
There are also reports that he ended up in the cockpit somehow during the flight.
Further reports point to holes in the security process at Egyptian airports. It’s a lot harder to get the sorts of material (guns, bombs, etc) through security nowadays to pull off a hijacking. And, due to the hardening of airplane doors, stories of hijackers in the cockpit of commercial flights are virtually non-existent these days.
One has to wonder how the whole thing played out. If authorities don’t think he actually has explosives, they’re proceeding with an abundance of caution to divert the flight and carry out negotiations.
Lots of information still coming together, but it’s not the story I expected to wake up to this morning.