Egyptian plane hijacked with 82 passengers on board
An Egyptian passenger plane has landed in Cyprus after being hijacked by a man wearing a suicide belt.
EgyptAir Flight 181 was on a scheduled journey from Alexandria to Cairo when it veered off course on Tuesday morning.
Sources told Reuters that eight British passengers and 10 Americans were on board but it was unclear if they had been released or were among the four foreigners held hostage as negotiations continued.
Androulla Vassiliou, the Cypriot former European Commissioner for Education, wrote on Twitter that the plane landed at 8.50am local time (6.50am BST).
“Hijacked aircraft of Egypt Air with 82 passengers landed at Larnaca airport,” she wrote. “We are anxious to learn more.”
The number of people on board was later revised to 56 passengers, seven crew and a member of security staff in a statement from EgyptAir.
Satellite data recorded by the Flight Aware website showed the Airbus A320 took off from Borg El Arab Airport as scheduled but lists its status as “result unknown”.
The situation at the Larnaca airport was unclear but Ms Vassilou said hijackers claimed to be prepared to release some of those on board.
“Hijackers asked all police forces to leave the area in order to release women and children passengers,” she wrote.
A statement from EgyptAir later said negotiations with a single hijacker had seen all those on board released apart from the flight crew and four foreigners.
One Cypriot government official told the Associated Press there were suspicions a bomb is on board, while a second Cypriot official said it “seems like there’s more than one hijacker”.
EgyptAir confirmed its plane, numbered MS181, had been “officially hijacked”.
Updates posted in Arabic on Twitter by the airline said a passenger wearing a suicide belt had threatened the pilot and that negotiations were underway.
A spokesperson said the aircraft had already been diverted to Larnaca when it was hijacked, adding: “The aircraft is an Airbus A320 with 56 passengers onboard in addition to seven crew members and one EgyptAir security member.”
Footage from the airport showed the plane on a runway and passengers leaving the aircraft before getting on to waiting buses with their luggage.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office could not confirm whether any Britons were among the passengers, saying: “We are in contact with the Cypriot and Egyptian authorities after a hijacked plane landed in Cyprus.”
The hijacking comes five months after a Russian aircraft crashed over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula minutes after it took off from Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
All 224 people on board were killed in the crash. Russia later said an explosive device brought down the aircraft after Isis claimed responsibility.