NewsCrime World

Bogus bomber claims he hasn't seen wife and kids for 24 years

EgyptAir plane hijacking suspect Seif Eddin Mustafa leaves court in Cyprus
EgyptAir plane hijacking suspect Seif Eddin Mustafa leaves court in Cyprus

The plane hijacker who threatened to blow up an EgyptAir flight asked police: "What's someone supposed to do when he hasn't seen his wife and children in 24 years?"

Seif Eddin Mustafa, 59, appeared in court in Cyprus on Wednesday to face a raft of charges after sparking a dramatic stand-off on the tarmac at Larnaca airport.

The flight, from Alexandria to Cairo, was forced to divert to Cyprus due to a man wearing a fake suicide belt.

Passenger Ben Innes, from Leeds, decided to pose for a photograph with the bogus bomber despite the man apparently having explosives strapped to his waist.

The 26-year-old health and safety auditor told The Sun: "I just threw caution to the wind while trying to stay cheerful in the face of adversity. I figured if his bomb was real I'd nothing to lose anyway, so took a chance to get a closer look at it.

"I got one of the cabin crew to translate for me and asked him if I could do a selfie with him. He just shrugged OK so I stood by him and smiled for the camera while a stewardess did the snap. It has to be the best selfie ever."

The Cypriot court ordered Mustafa to be detained for eight days as he faces charges including hijacking, illegal possession of explosives, kidnapping and threats to commit violence.

Handcuffed Mustafa flashed the "V'' for victory sign out of a police vehicle as he was driven away from the Larnaca courthouse after the hearing.

Police prosecutor Andreas Lambrianou said the suspect told police: "What's someone supposed to do when he hasn't seen his wife and children in 24 years and the Egyptian government won't let him?"

Cypriot officials described him as "psychologically unstable" following a bizarre set of demands he made to police negotiators, including what Mr Lambrianou said was a letter he wanted delivered to his Cypriot ex-wife in which he demanded the release of 63 dissident women imprisoned in Egypt.

The prosecutor said Cypriot authorities will ask for Interpol's help to determine how the suspect managed to pass the fake explosives belt through airport security in Egypt.

Tuesday's hostage drama ended peacefully when police arrested the suspect after all 72 passengers and crew on board the Airbus A320 aircraft were released.

Most of those on board were freed shortly after the plane landed at Larnaca airport on the Mediterranean island on Tuesday morning, but the hijacker held seven people hostage for a number of hours before the stand-off came to a conclusion.

The incident comes just five months after 224 people were killed when a Russian aircraft crashed over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula minutes after it took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Russia later said an explosive device brought down the aircraft in October, and the extremist Islamic State group said it was responsible.

Mr Innes's mother Pauline told reporters she was looking forward to his homecoming.

She told ITV News: "We are relieved beyond explanation that Ben and everyone is safe and well.

"We do not know the facts about this as we have not spoken to Ben at any great length.

"All we know is he is now safe and looking forward to coming home.

"We would appreciate absolute privacy at this time as we are trying to come to terms with what has been a horrendous ordeal."