EgyptAir Flight Hijacked While On Route To Cairo
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
The hijacking of an EgyptAir flight this morning has come to an end - and a peaceful one. The plane had been headed to Cairo from Alexandria, Egypt before it was diverted to Cyprus. The hijacker claimed to be wearing a suicide vest. After hours of negotiations, all passengers and crew were released. The man gave himself up. For the latest, we're joined by a local journalist there, Yiorgos Kakouris. He is with the Politis newspaper in Cyprus. Good morning.
YIORGOS KAKOURIS: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: Tell us how it all ended.
KAKOURIS: Well, it all ended as you said, with the hijacker giving himself up to the authorities. He exited the plane with his hands up. And he was escorted by the policeman to the main building of the airport, where he's currently being questioned.
MONTAGNE: And the passengers and the crew, they - over the hours, some came out. And finally, in the end, they were pretty much all out of the plane. Where are they?
KAKOURIS: All the passengers are now safe, and they're OK in their health. They're also at the airport. During this whole situation, they were testifying to the police about what had happened to them. But by now, most of them have been out since early in the morning. The whole situation started around 15 minutes to 8, local time. By 9:30, about 50 people had been released by the hijacker and were transferred to the main building of the airport. There were only a few people left in the airplane with the hijacker until the end. And there were about five people getting released at the end. There's also footage of the pilot - we believe - jumping out of the front window of the plane.
MONTAGNE: Lots of changing information about this hijacker and his motives - what, finally, have you been able to learn or at least at this point?
KAKOURIS: Well, it's is very confusing because as you probably mentioned, initially there was a request for a letter to be handed to his ex-wife, who is Cypriot and that has been living here for - for years. Later on he asked to see a representatives of the EU, asking to request asylum. Later on it emerged that in the letter with his demands he had expressed a demand for political prisoners in Egypt to be released. In a statement by the foreign minister, after the whole situation was resolved, the foreign minister said that the hijacker seems to have been psychologically unstable, which would help to explain all the conflicting claims and demands that he made.
MONTAGNE: But ultimately - just to kind of put this in some sort of perspective - the president of Cyprus, for one, very early on said this was not a terrorist event and indicated it was more of a domestic issue. But there is some mix of motives here.
KAKOURIS: It was pretty clear from the beginning that it wasn't a terrorist event in the sense that everyone would expect given the current climate.
KAKOURIS: It seemed from the beginning he had information that motives were mixed.
MONTAGNE: And the event is over at this point. Thank you very much for joining us.
KAKOURIS: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: Cypriot journalist Yiorgos Kakouris. He is with the Politis newspaper in Cyprus. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.