Wednesday, March 30, 2016 2:50 pm
Mostafa probably taking as a joke, whatever charge may be slammed on him next week, flashed journalists the victory sign as he was driven away by police from the courthouse, which is less than a kilometre (half a mile) from Larnaca airport where a six-hour standoff unfolded after the hijacking.
Most of the 55 passengers on the EgyptAir flight were quickly released after it landed in Larnaca but it took hours of negotiations, including a conversation with his ex-wife, before Mostafa surrendered to police.
“What’s someone supposed to do when he hasn’t seen his wife and children in 24 years and the Egyptian government won’t let you?” the police prosecutor quoted him as telling officers after his arrest.
Some passengers and crew escaped only minutes before the standoff ended, including one uniformed man who was seen clambering out of a cockpit window and dropping to the ground.
Among them was a 26-year-old British man, Ben Innes, who asked crew to snap a photograph of him standing beside Mostafa that has been widely shared on social media.
The image features a grinning Innes standing next to Mostafa, with what appears to be a rudimentary suicide vest strapped to his chest.
“I figured if his bomb was real I’d nothing to lose anyway, so took a chance to get a closer look at it,” Innes, a health and safety auditor from Leeds, told Britain’s The Sun newspaper.
“So I stood by him and smiled for the camera while a stewardess did the snap. It has to be the best selfie ever,” he said.
As it became clear on Tuesday that the hijacker was trying to contact his ex-wife and was likely not a real danger, Egyptians also took to social media to poke fun at the incident, many using the Twitter hashtag #loveisintheair.
“This is what happens when you block your ex,” one person wrote on Twitter, while another opined: “Some may wonder why the hijacker didn’t just email his wife. They don’t realise how terrible Egypt’s Internet is.”
– ‘Non-prohibited’ items –
H.A. Hellyer, an Arab affairs specialist at the Royal United Services Institute in London, tweeted: “My wife just told me: ‘You don’t love me enough. You haven’t hijacked a plane to talk to me. Sort it out'”
After several hours in Larnaca, passengers on the flight were flown to Cairo late on Tuesday.
“Fifteen minutes after departure we saw on the screens that the plane was not going to Cairo and it was crossing the sea,” passenger Noha Saleh said on arrival in the Egyptian capital.
“They said it was a technical problem and they needed to go to Cyprus or Greece to fix it… they were professional and their attitude was normal,” she said.
Concerns were raised about security at Egyptian airports after a Russian airliner was downed on October 31 over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. The Islamic State group claimed to have smuggled a bomb on board.
The police prosecutor said Cypriot authorities would seek the help of Interpol to discover how the fake suicide belt passed through airport security in Alexandria.
But Egypt’s interior ministry said in a statement that all security measures had been applied.
The accused hijacker and his luggage were scanned, it said, and he had used “non-prohibited belongings” in his handbag “to imply that he was wearing an explosive belt and to threaten the crew and passengers.”