Who Is the EgyptAir Hijacker and What Were His Motives?

More questions than answers remain in Tuesday's fortunately bloodless hijacking.

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A handout picture provided by the Egyptian ministry of interior shows a screen grab of CCTV footage reportedly showing the hijacker of the EgyptAir flight diverted to Cyprus, going through airport security checks at Egypt's Alexandria airport on March 29, 2016.
A handout picture provided by the Egyptian ministry of interior shows a screen grab of CCTV footage reportedly showing the hijacker of the EgyptAir flightCredit: AFP

Confusion has arisen over the identity and the motives of a man who hijacked an Egyptian airliner wearing a fake explosives belt on Tuesday morning.

All the hostages were safely released, and the perpetrator was taken into custody in Cyprus, after forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in the Larnaca Airport.

Following his arrest, Egyptian state television identified the hijacker as Egyptian national Ibrahim Samaha. But shortly after, an Egyptian woman claiming to be Samaha's wife said her husband is not the hijacker, adding that he was on his way to the United States to attend a conference.

The woman, who identified herself as Nahla, told the private TV network ONTV in a telephone interview that her husband had never been to Cyprus and that a photo shown on Egyptian and regional TV channels purporting to show the hijacker is not her husband.

Later that evening, the official Middle East News Agency identified the hijacker as Seifedeen Mustafa, which was confirmed by a senior Cypriot official shortly after.

Cairo police have been questioning the hijacker's relatives, a local police chief reported.

No further details have been provided about his identity as of yet.

An EgyptAir plane, Airbus A320, Passengers disembark an Egypt Air Airbus A-320 sitting on the tarmac of Larnaca aiport after it was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016.Credit: AFP

The hijacker's identity is not the only element of the incident surrounded by questions. His motives also remain unclear.

Cyprus' president says the hijacker was not a terrorist, and Cyrpiot officials report that the psychologically unstable man acted out of personal reasons and "seems to be in love."

Officials say that the hijacker had asked to speak to his Cypriot ex-wife, giving negotiators her name and asking to give her an envelope, the contents of which were incoherent. Police then brought her to the airport.

After that, the man asked for EU representatives "to assure him about matters that had no logical basis," the Cypriot foreign minister says.

At one point the hijacker demanded the release of women held in Egyptian prisons, but he then dropped the demand and made others. "His demands made no sense or were too incoherent to be taken seriously," the minister says.

Later, a Cypriot official confirmed that the hijacker and his ex-wife were divorced in 1994 and share four children. He however denied that the man's ex has anything to do with the hijacking.

When asked to confirm that the incident was about the woman, Cyprus' president replied, drawing laughter: "Always, there is a woman."


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