CAIRO, March 29 – Most of the passengers on an EgyptAir plane that was hijacked and forced to land at Larnaca airport in Cyprus were released on Tuesday, the airline and Egyptian officials said, after the jet was diverted during its flight to Cairo from Alexandria.
A hijacker told the pilot he was wearing a belt containing explosives and threatened to detonate it, officials said. It was not clear whether there were other hijackers. EgyptAir said in a post on Twitter that negotiations with the hijacker had led to the release of all on board except four foreigners and the crew members.
The Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority, in a statement, identified the flight as EgyptAir 181 and said there had been 55 passengers and five crew members on board. EgyptAir, on its Twitter account, said that 81 passengers were on board. Video from the airport showed passengers walking down the stairs from the plane, an Airbus A320, and walking a short distance across the tarmac at Larnaca International Airport before boarding a bus.
In a statement, the Civil Aviation Ministry said the pilot, Omar al-Gammal, had told the authorities that he had been threatened by a passenger with explosives in a belt who forced him to land in Larnaca, Reuters reported. Cypriot public television reported that the hijacker was a 27-year-old Egyptian and that he was asking for political asylum.
Aviation security in Egypt has been under sharp scrutiny since a Russian airliner crashed shortly after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh on Oct. 31, killing all 224 on board. A local affiliate of the Islamic State said it had brought down that plane with a bomb. Russia and Egypt have attributed the crash to terrorism, although an Egyptian-led investigation has yet to publish its findings.