Cyprus Mail

Forty hijack passengers flown back to Egypt, crew member speaks about ‘terrible’ standoff (Update 2)

Among those on the hijacked Egyptair flight on Tuesday were eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, an Italian, a Syrian and French national.

After being gradually released the hostages were taken by bus to the old Larnaca airport terminal where later in the day they were visited by their respective consular representatives. Forty of the 55 passengers flew back to Egypt on a special flight on Tuesday night at 7:30pm and the remainder were booked to return to their home countries on various other flights. The hijacked Airbus is due to leave Cyprus at 2am local time.

Earlier in the day one of the passengers had been mistaken for the hijacker by Egyptian state media who named him as Ibrahim Samaha, an Egyptian. However, Gamal al-Omrawi, a deputy dean at Alexandria University, told Reuters that Samaha was a passenger on the plane and not the hijacker. He said he had spoken by phone to Samaha, who confirmed that he was one of the passengers who was released early on.

“Fifteen minutes after taking off from the Burg al-Arab airport (in Alexandria) the airline staff began checking our papers,” Samaha told Akhbar El Yom newspaper. “We were surprised, because it was a domestic flight, in such cases passports are never checked even at the airport”.

Speaking later to the BBC ‘s Victoria Derbyshire programme, Samaha said: “I was not the hijacker, I was simply a passenger on that plane and I was released alongside other passengers and had absolutely nothing to do with hijacking the plane. We did not know what was going on. The reality is that we have a hijacker on board of a plane”.

Though it was not possible to talk to the passengers at Larnaca airport as they were being protected by tight security, a member of the crew who did not wish to be named as he was not authorised to talk to the press, spoke to the Cyprus Mail about what it was like on board.

During the point when the hijacker Seif Eldin Mustafa demanded to speak to an EU official, “They (Cypriot authorities) told us ‘no it’s not possible’,” said the crew member.

“We said ok send someone with a suit, a tie, he doesn’t have to be an actual EU official, just to pretend”.  The response, he said was: “That’s not possible.”

When Mustafa demanded he be allowed to fly to Istanbul, the crew member said, and he was told there was no fuel in the plane, he asked for a refueling truck.

“Again we told Cypriot authorities and they refused. We said ‘ok send a truck and put someone on it even an armed officer so we can get out’,” he added. The response again was negative, the crew member said. “It was terrible”.

The co-pilot, he added, tried to calm the hijacker down to no avail. Going back to the cockpit, the co-pilot then managed to break a window and escape, a picture widely circulated across the web.





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