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Irishman among those held hostage by hijacker

Irishman among those held hostage by hijacker

A man wearing a suicide belt has hijacked a passenger plane during a flight in Egypt and forced it to land in Cyprus, where a number of "foreigners" are being held hostage.

Reports indicate that an Irishman and a number of Britons were aboard the EgyptAir plane which was diverted during an internal flight from Alexandria on Egypt's Mediterranean coast to the capital Cairo.

The plane, which the airline said was carrying 81 passengers and crew, was taken over by a man armed with an explosive vest.

He has been named by Egyptian media as 27-year-old Ibrahim Samaha, which said that he wanted to claim asylum on the Mediterranean island.

Negotiations have led to the release of all the passengers, except for the crew and four foreign passengers, the airline said.

The Airbus plane, flight MS181, landed at Larnaca airport at around 8.50am, police in Cyprus said.

EgyptAir said the captain, Omar Jamal, was alerted to the presence of a passenger who was wearing an explosives belt.

According to reports the man was trying to get in touch with his ex-wife in Cyprus.

Footage showed the plane at a secluded spot at the airport and passengers disembarking calmly, walking down steps from the plane with their luggage and boarding waiting buses.

Egyptian government officials said the hijacker initially wanted to go to Istanbul in Turkey but was told by the captain there was not enough fuel.

The director of the Alexandria airport, Hossni Hassan, said 26 foreigners were aboard the flight, including eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, an Italian, a French national, two Greeks and one Syrian.

Three other foreigners could not be identified.

EgyptAir has set up an emergency line for worried relatives - 0800 77 77 000, for those calling within Egypt, and 002 02 25989320 29.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it is working with Cypriot and Egyptian authorities, while Ireland's department of foreign affairs said it is liaising with consular staff in Egypt but could not confirm if an Irish citizen was on board the plane.