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EgyptAir hostages home safe as Russia delays resuming flights Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

EgyptAir hostages home safe as Russia delays resuming flights

A man hijacked a flight from Egypt to Cyprus with fake explosives [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 March, 2016

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The Egyptian hostages of a hijacked EgyptAir plane have returned home safely, as Russian officials say the incident will further delay the resumption of Egypt flights.

The drama of Tuesday's EgyptAir hijacking has continued with Egyptian hostages returning back to Egypt after their ordeal and with the "unstable" hijacker due in a Cypriot court.

Meanwhile, security at Egypt's airports has received further scrutiny from Russian officials, who have announced a delay of resumption of flights to Egypt suspended since a Russian jetliner was blown up over Sinai in October.

The hijacking saga came to a peaceful end on Tuesday afternoon, after an Egyptian hijacker diverted a plane, originally travelling from Alexandria to Cairo, to Cyprus demanding to see his ex-wife, sparking a dramatic six-hour standoff.

He had claimed to have explosives strapped to his waist but none were discovered. He then gave himself up at Larnaca airport and was arrested.

On Tuesday evening, all the Egyptian hostages and air cabin crew returned safely to Egypt, where they were greeted at Cairo airport by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.

"There was panic at the beginning, but the crew told us to be quiet. They did a good job to keep us all quiet so the hijacker wouldn't do anything rash," passenger Farah al-Dabani told the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV in a telephone interview.

     
      The hijacker gave the victory sign to journalists [Getty]

She added that the hijacker was seated in the back of the aircraft and that it was the crew who told passengers that the plane was being hijacked.

Meanwhile, the hijacker was remanded into police custody for eight days during his first court appearance on Wednesday.

Police told the court in Larnaca that 58-year-old Egyptian Seif al-Din Mostafa faces possible charges of hijacking, kidnapping people with the aim of taking them to an unknown destination, reckless and threatening behaviour and offences that breach the anti-terror law.

As Mostafa left in a police car, he gave the victory sign to journalists attending the hearing at the courthouse, which is less than a kilometre away from Larnaca airport where the hijacking unfolded.

Cyprus authorities have described Mostafa as "psychologically unstable" and said the case was not "terrorism-related".

The incident has brought back to the fore questions of security at Egyptian airports, five months after a Russian aircraft was blown up over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula

Egypt's airport security questioned

The incident has brought back to the fore questions of security at Egyptian airports, five months after a Russian aircraft was blown up over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula minutes after it took off from Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh.

All 224 people on board were killed in the crash. Islamic state group militants have claimed they smuggled a bomb on board.

Russian authorities have ruled out an early resumption of flights to Egyptian tourist destinations in light of the hijacking, after links were cut following the downing of the plane.

The Kremlin's spokesperson Dimitry Peskov said that a full investigation into the events must be made before determining whether to restore or hold-off flights.

"This is a very sensitive and serious case. Guaranteeing the safety of Russians is our priority," Peskov added.

Oleg Safonov, head of the Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation, said the hijacking must be taken into account when determining whether to restore flights.

Russian parliamentarian Franz Klintsevich echoed Russian concerns, saying talks must be put on hold in light of the hijacking, as Egyptians are not ready to ensure the security of Russian tourists.

Egyptian tourism authorities, however, have denied "media reports" that Moscow was backing out of resuming flights as a result of the incident.

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