LiveEgypt plane hijacked - as it happened


  1. EgyptAir Flight MS181 was diverted to Cyprus from Egypt after being hijacked on 29 March 2016
  2. Hijacker told the pilot he had an explosives belt
  3. Most passengers were immediately freed but a number were held on board
  4. They eventually left the plane - one making a dramatic jump from a cockpit window
  5. The crisis ended with the arrest of the alleged hijacker
  6. Authorities now say they will question the "unstable" suspect over his motives

Live Reporting

By Becky Branford, Kevin Ponniah and Marie Jackson

Summary of the day's events


With the alleged hijacker in custody and all of the plane's passengers and crew said to be safe, we will be ending this live page.

To recap:

  • A man hijacked EgyptAir flight MS181 carrying at least 55 passengers from Alexandria to Cairo on Tuesday morning, forcing it to land in Cyprus.
  • Most passengers were released immediately, but at least seven people, including crew members, were kept on the plane.
  • The crisis drew to a conclusion several hours later. The remaining hostages began to emerge from the plane, with one making a dramatic jump from a cockpit window. 
  • The suspected hijacker then emerged with his hands up, and was arrested.
  • The man is being interrogated and the "suicide belt" he was said to be wearing was reportedly fake.

Several questions remain about the incident, with answers expected to emerge in the coming hours and days.

  • Why did Seif Eldin Mustafa, identified as the hijacker by Cypriot authorities, decide to hijack the EgyptAir plane?
  • What were the exact demands that he made?
  • What happened to the hostages kept on the plane at Larnaca airport? 
  • The incident has raised fresh fears about Egyptian aviation security - how did a man wearing what appeared to be a bomb belt board a commercial flight?

That's it for now - please visit the BBC News website for the latest updates.

Video published of 'hijack suspect' being searched

The Egyptian interior ministry publishes a video on its Facebook page showing a man it has identified as the alleged hijacker being searched at the airport in Alexandria, from where the plane departed. The security camera video shows a man wearing a loose dark jacket over a white shirt place a satchel-type bag on the conveyor belt. He then walks through the scanner and holds his arms out while he is frisked. He empties his pockets before scooping up his only bag and walking out of shot.

Hijacking suspect 'frisked and interrogated'

More details are emerging of the alleged hijacker's arrest. AFP say counter-terrorism police frisked the suspected hijacker on the tarmac then interrogated him for more than an hour before boarding the plane and searching it with sniffer dogs.

Picture: Flights out of Larnaca cancelled

Larnaca airport has been closed for most of the day, with scheduled flights diverted elsewhere.This stranded passenger takes in a departure board full of delayed and cancelled flights.


Explosives belt 'was fake'

EgyptAir release a statement quoting security sources as saying the explosive belt that the hijacker allegedly said he was wearing was fake.

Picture: 'Hijack suspect' holds hands aloft

This picture is thought to show the alleged hijacker surrendering to security forces after a six-hour standoff at Larnaca airport.


'No explosives' in suspect's belt

Cypriot officials say initial searches of the suspected hijacker have revealed that the white belt he was wearing contained no explosives. But searches of the plane are said to be continuing.

Crew faced difficult decision - aviation security expert

Philip Baum, the editor of Aviation Security International magazine, says that dealing with a hijacker who may or may not have a genuine explosives vest poses a difficult dilemma for an airline.


"Ultimately it was the crew members that had to evaluate whether it was better to attempt to overpower the hijacker or to actually accede to their demands and to divert the aircraft as they elected to do. So sometimes if the worst thing that happens is burning a few hours' extra fuel, and delaying things, it's better just to go along with the hijacker's demands."

Philip Baum Aviation security expert

Hijacker 'asked to meet with EU officials'

The man who hijacked EgyptAir flight MS181 asked to meet with "a representative of the European Union," Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail says.

He also asked to go to another airport, but did not demand a specific destination. 

The man's motives remain unclear. 

Picture: Alleged hijacker leaves plane before arrest

A picture has emerged of the man thought to be the hijacker leaving the plane before his arrest.


Fresh fears over Egyptian aviation security

This incident has raised fresh concerns about the safety of Egyptian aviation five months after a Russian airliner was blown out of the sky above the Sinai desert, killing all 224 people on board, says the BBC's Orla Guerin in Cairo. In the wake of the bombing, authorities had conducted reviews of airport security but this incident suggests there could still be systemic failures. 

Alleged hijacker 'appeared unstable'

A short time ago at a news conference in Nicosia, Cypriot officials raised questions about the mental health of the alleged hijacker, saying he seemed "unstable".

Video of hostage jumping out of cockpit window

Watch one of the hostages jump out of the cockpit window, minutes before the alleged hijacker was arrested and walked out of the plane with his hands held above his head.

Suspect to be questioned about motive

Reuters quotes the Egyptian prime minister as saying authorities would question the alleged hijacker to ascertain his true motives. 

Alleged hijacker 'emerges with hands held up'

Reuters are quoting Cyprus reports that the alleged hijacker has emerged from the plane with his hands held up.

More disembarking from EgyptAir plane

Live pictures of the hijacked EgyptAir plane on the tarmac in Cyprus appear to show more people leaving. Reuters are reporting a fifth person seen leaving. If earlier reports are accurate, this would mean at least two people remain on the plane.

Image of EgyptAir cockpit jump

This still shows one person escaping from the plane via the cockpit window. The person clambered on to a structure before jumping to the ground and jogging away from the plane towards safety.

TV grab

BreakingOne jumps out of window after three more leave plane

Cypriot TV pictures from moments ago show someone jumping out of the plane from the cockpit window, after three people left the plane via the staircase.

EgyptAir hijacking: what we know

The hijacking of an EgyptAir plane has been a fast-moving story, with many unconfirmed reports circulating about the hijacker and his motives.

Here's a summary of what we know at this time:

  • A man hijacked EgyptAir flight MS181 traveling from Alexandria to Cairo, forcing it to land in Cyprus. 
  • The Airbus A320 began its journey in Saudi Arabia and had 56 passengers aboard when it left Alexandria, according to EgyptAir 
  • Most of those on board have been released but at least seven hostages remain 
  • They include three passengers whose nationalities have not been confirmed by authorities 
  • The Cypriot foreign affairs ministry named the hijacker as Seif Eldin Mustafa, but offered no further details
  • The hijacker claimed to be strapped with explosives, though it is unknown if this is true
  • Egypt's civil aviation minister said no concrete demands have been made by the hijacker, contrary to reports that he had demanded to see his ex-wife, asked for Egyptian prisoners to be freed and sought asylum in Cyprus

Journalists moved away

Nikolas Zannetos, a Cypriot journalist who is at Larnaca airport, tells us that journalists have been told to move back from their vantage point 500m (547 yards) from the plane and are now one kilometre away. But he says the police say it is a precautionary measure, with no confirmation that any explosives are on board the plane.


In pictures: Snipers and security forces at airport

A police sniper keeps watch at Larnaca airport, while Cypriot security forces drive past the hijacked EgyptAir Airbus A-320 parked on the tarmac.


Airport 'a ghost town'

BBC producer Rebecca Bailey is at Larnaca airport in Cyprus.

She says less travelers are turning up at the airport now, as flights have been put on hold, but that there are people who have been stranded there "for hours and hours".

"It's remarkably calm. You can see straight through to the departures gate. It's just like a complete ghost town," she says.

Journalists have found it difficult to speak to passengers that have left the plane, she adds, with conflicting reports about where they are being held. 


Video: Egyptian minister says seven hostages remain on plane

Here is some video from Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy's press conference earlier. 

'Release of prisoners' demanded by hijacker - Cypriot media

Cypriot media are reporting a different demand on the part of the hijacker. They say he is a former Egyptian army soldier opposed to Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and is demanding the release of female prisoners in Egypt. The BBC's Ranyah Sabry in Cairo cautions that official confirmation of such reports is needed.

Video: Laughing president says there's always a woman involved

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades appeared to see the funny side of the situation during an earlier joint press conference. 

"It's not something which is to do with terrorism, you know what I mean," he tells reporters, before starting to chuckle.

"Always there is a woman involved," he adds, with more laughter as he walks out of the room.

Earlier reports suggested the hijacker had demanded to see his estranged wife, who lives in Cyprus.

Latest images from the airport

Two men are photographed leaving the plane with their hand luggage
Passengers were transported by bus. Images of the scene appear to show people responding calmly
It is understood all the passengers now off the hijacked plane are being interviewed by authorities

Who remains on board hijacked EgyptAir plane?

Seven hostages remain aboard the plane, Egyptian civil aviation minister Sherif Fathy just said at a news conference. 

They are the captain, a co-pilot, a female crew member, a security officer and three passengers.

Mr Fathy did not reveal the nationalities of the passengers nor the identity of the hijacker.

Most passengers have been allowed to disembark from the plane

Foreign Ministry denies calling hijacker 'an idiot'

Egypt's foreign ministry spokesperson denies making comments to the Guardian, which earlier quoted officials as calling the hijacker "an idiot, not a terrorist".

Journalist Ruth Michaelson, who had quoted the officials, responded that "no one said it was the spokesperson".

Spokesperson for Egypt's Foreign Ministry denied issuing any statements or remarks to @guardian regarding hijacking of EgyptAir flight today

More detail on passenger numbers

EgyptAir reports on its website that 56 passengers, seven crew members and one "security member" were aboard the plane when it left Alexandria.

The airline previously tweeted that 81 passengers had been on board. 

Egypt's civil aviation ministry has said the foreign passengers included eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch nationals, two Belgians, a French national, an Italian, two Greeks and one Syrian. It said three other foreigners were yet to be identified. 


News conference raises questions over whether all EgyptAir passengers are free

A news conference with Egypt's civil aviation minister has recently ended - but with as many new questions as answers, says the BBC's Jonny Dymond.

  • It had earlier appeared that at least all passengers had been freed, but it is now stated that three remain on board along with crew members
  • It was stated that no concrete demands have been made, but earlier reports clearly suggested the hijacker had asked to see his estranged wife
  • The hijacker is said to have requested to divert the plane to Turkey or Cyprus - but again it is not clear why he would want to go to Turkey if he wanted to see his former wife in Cyprus

It had appeared that this crisis was coming to an end, our correspondent says - but this news conference suggests that it is far from resolved.


Not time to talk about security lapses - Egyptian minister

The aviation official holding the news conference responded angrily to a press question about possible security lapses.

He said: "Do you really think this is the time to talk about other issues?"

Hijacked plane passengers 'being interviewed'

A BBC fixer in Cyprus says no flights are arriving or departing, and all planes are being diverted. Check-in staff told her they have been told to divert passengers to buses outside the airport, who are being taken to Paphos on the south-west coast. All passengers on the hijacked plane have been taken away to be interviewed, she adds.

Explosives belt 'dealt with as if it was real' - Egyptian minister

The minister says they do not know whether the explosives belt the hijacker claimed to be wearing was real or not.

"We didn't know if it was real, but we dealt with it as if it was real," he said. 

He will not name those still aboard the plane and states that the hijacker has so far made no concrete demands. 

Picture: Egypt's aviation minister gives press conference


BreakingHostages 'still on board'

An Egyptian civil aviation offical tells a news conference, contrary to previous reports, that seven people, including three passengers, remain on board the hijacked plane.

'Pilot should not have followed hijacker's instructions' - aviation expert

Aviation expert David Learmont tells the BBC that he believes that the pilot should not have followed the hijacker's instructions.

We are seeing something extraordinary. That captain who accepted, just on being told that somebody on board had a suicide vest, should have had sufficient confidence in the security services to know that that was impossible and therefore he should not have followed the instructions of the hijacker."

David Learmont Aviation expert

'We didn't know what was going on'

A man wrongly identified in some reports as the hijacker has spoken to BBC Arabic. Dr Ibrahim Samaha, an Egyptian university professor, said that he was not the hijacker but was on board the plane. 

He described what happened: "We did not know what was going on. We got aboard the plane and we were surprised that the crew took all our passports, which is unusual for a domestic flight. After a while we realised that the altitude is getting higher. Then we knew we were heading to Cyprus. At first the crew told us there was a problem with the plane, and only later we knew it was hijacked."

Travellers facing delays and cancellations

BBC producer Rebecca Bailey, who is at Larnaca airport, says the scene there at the moment is one of relative calm, although the departure board is full of news of cancellations, delays and diversions. A lot of people are standing around, waiting for more information, as more people continue to arrive at the airport with their baggage, she adds.

Picture: Freed passengers at Larnaca airport

Passengers from the hijacked plane congregate at Larnaca airport after being freed.


Government did 'everything to ensure passengers' safe release'

More from Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. Speaking at a joint news conference with the visiting president of the European Parliament Martin Schultz, he said the Cyprus government had done everything it could to ensure the safe release of the passengers, AFP is reporting.

Most are reported to have been released.

'All EgyptAir passengers freed'

The BBC's Ranyah Sabry in Cairo says it appears all the hostages have been freed, and the hijacker is now on his own in the plane. Egyptian officials are due to hold a news conference shortly.

'Nothing to do with terrorism' - Cypriot president


"It is not something which has to do with terrorism," Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades tells reporters, according to Reuters.

Five people 'wearing crew uniforms' released - AFP

At least five more people have been allowed to disembark from the plane, AFP news agency reports. 

The group were wearing what appeared to be airline crew uniforms, a correspondent at the scene says.

'Ex-wife being taken to airport'

The hijacker has demanded to see his estranged wife, and she is going to the airport, reports say, citing Cypriot government and police sources. She is said to live in a village not far from the airport.

Breaking'More passengers seen leaving plane' - state broadcaster

Cypriot state broadcasters are reporting that more passengers have been seen leaving the hijacked plane, Reuters news agency says.

Map: Flight course from Egypt to Cyprus

Flight MS181 from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus, where it landed at 05:46 GMT.


Four British passengers - Alexandria airport chief

The head of Alexandria's Borg El Arab Airport, where the flight took off, has given a BBC reporter more details of the passengers on board the plane.

Eight Americans, four Britons, two Belgians, one Italian, four Dutch and 30 Egyptians were on board the flight, he says.

Earlier reports had said there were 81 passengers on board. 

Hijacker 'wanted letter delivered to ex-wife'

Cyprus broadcasting (CYBC) is suggesting the hijacker may have personal motives, Reuters are reporting. The hijacker had an ex-wife in Cyprus, CYBC said. Witnesses said the hijacker threw a letter onto the airport tarmac, written in Arabic, asking for it to be delivered to her.

Hijacker 'asked for translator'

News agency AFP are quoting reports that the hijacker has asked for a translator to press his demand.

EgyptAir hijacking: what we know

Here's a summary of what we know at this time:

  • A man hijacked an EgyptAir plane traveling from Alexandria to Cairo, forcing it to land in Cyprus. The plane began its journey in Saudi Arabia
  • Most passengers have been released but at least four foreign passengers and the crew remain on board
  • Egyptian state media has identified the hijacker as an Egyptian national
  • Cyprus state media says he has demanded asylum in the country
  • The hijacker was reportedly strapped with explosives, though this has not been confirmed

Hijacker 'demands asylum in Cyprus' - state radio

The hijacker is demanding asylum in Cyprus, according to state radio, AFP news agency reports.