Story highlights

The hijacker has a criminal record that includes fraud and drug charges, ministry says

The hijacker took over the plane because of his ex-wife, Cyprus says

A pilot says the hijacker claimed he had an explosive belt

Cairo CNN —  

Farrah El Dibany thought something was odd. Her Tuesday EgyptAir flight was taking too long to get from Alexandria to Cairo, the plane was headed out over the Mediterranean Sea, and then, crew members began taking passengers’ passports.

“When you fly to Cairo, you don’t cross the sea,” she said. “Then one of the cabin crew told us, ‘We are hijacked. We’re being hijacked.’ There was a lot of panic and crying on the plane. They didn’t tell us anything more. They didn’t say what he wants or where we’re heading, nothing. We were just kidnapped.”

El Dibany’s flight had been hijacked by a man who officials described as “unstable” after he held the passengers and crew hostage with a fake explosive belt, forcing the plane to divert to Cyprus – apparently over issues involving his ex-wife, a Cypriot. He also has a criminal record,

“It was very horrifying to be in this situation,” El Dibany said.

The incident ended relatively peacefully Tuesday when the plane’s crew and passengers left the aircraft and authorities took the hijacker into custody.

“The hijacker has just been arrested,” Cyprus government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides said on Twitter, adding a few minutes later, “All passengers and crew are safe.”

Cyprus state television showed video of the hijacker, wearing a white shirt, being led away by a phalanx of police. Presidential spokesman Alaa Yousuf identified the Egyptian man as Seif El Din Mustafa.

An early report that the hijacker was armed with explosives was false, said Alexandros Zinon, permanent secretary for the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Shortly before news of the arrest, video of the aircraft, which was parked on the tarmac at Cyprus’ Larnaca International Airport, showed people leaving the plane, one through a cockpit window.

Domestic woes?

The incident began when Mustafa allegedly hijacked the EgyptAir flight because of his ex-wife, officials said Tuesday. The hijacking was not related to terrorism, a spokesman for the Cyprus Transport Ministry said.