What We Know About the Bizarre Story of Hijacked EgyptAir Flight 181

March 29th 2016

Nicole Charky

The hijacking of an EgyptAir flight bound for Cairo on Tuesday was the work of an 'idiot, not a terrorist,' according to a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

An apparently lovesick passenger wearing what was later revealed to be a fake explosive belt hijacked an EgyptAir plane, eventually forcing the flight to land in Cypress, according to multiple media reports. After the bizarre hijack, 82 of the passengers were released without harm. At one point, the crew and four foreigners were reportedly held so the hijacker could get a letter to his estranged wife in Cypress, Daily Beast reports.

Cyprus’s president, Nikos Anastasiades, explained that “it’s all to do with a woman."

"Terrorists are crazy, but they are not stupid," the spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry added.

Egypt Air Flight MS 181 was hijacked and diverted from its flight from Alexandria, a Northern port city along the Mediterranean Sea, toward Egypt's capital city, Cairo, the Washington Post reports. The hijacker apparently said he was wearing a suicide belt and threatened to detonate it, Egyptian officials said, according to The New York Times.

The flight took off at about 6:30 a.m. and was slated to arrive at 7:15 a.m. local time, according to the country's aviation authority. Instead, it took an emergency diversion to Larnaka airport, on the island of Cypress. The airline had released this tweet and an official statement on Facebook following the hijack.


Press statement (2) Cairo, March 29, 2016 Negotiations with the Hijacker result in the release of all the passengers, except the crew and four foreigners.

Posted by EGYPTAIR on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

There were eight Americans, four Britons, two Belgians, one Italian, four Dutch and 30 Egyptians on the flight, according to BBC.

The hijacker, who was initially misidentified as another person, then corrected by Egyptian authorities, is Seif El Din Mustafa, an Egyptian national. He's apparently been calling for his wife, and "wants to contact" her. According to various news reports, she was on her way to the airport to help official negotiate with the hijacker.

According to Cyrpress President Nicos Anastasiades, this attack was not an act of terrorism, but instead a personal one. The attacker claimed to have overtaken the plane as a means of contacting his wife.