Most of the passengers on board a hijacked Egyptian airliner that was forced to divert to Cyprus have been freed, the airline says.
EgyptAir Flight MS181 was taken over after a passenger said he was wearing an explosives belt.
Reports say the lone hijacker wants to talk to his estranged Cypriot wife, who is now on the way to the airport. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters the hijack was not a terrorist incident. “We are doing our upmost in order for everyone to be released and safe,” he added.
In response to a reporter’s question about whether the hijacker was motivated by romance, he laughed and said: “Always there is a woman involved.”
EgyptAir said negotiations at Larnaca airport had resulted in the release of all those on board, apart from the crew and four foreign passengers.
More people have subsequently been seen leaving the aircraft. It remains unclear precisely how many people are still on board. EgyptAir said the Airbus A320 was carrying 81 passengers from Alexandria to Cairo.
A senior Alexandria airport official said those on board the flight when it took off included eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, one Italian and 30 Egyptians.
“The pilot said that a passenger told him he had an explosives vest and forced the plane to land in Larnaca,” the Egyptian civil aviation ministry said in a statement. Larnaca airport, on the south coast of Cyprus, has been closed and scheduled flights diverted elsewhere.