Reports emerge Egypt plane hijacker a fraudster who escaped jail

The man who hijacked an EgyptAir plane so he could visit his estranged wife in Cyprus is a jailed fraudster whose passport was blacklisted after he escaped prison in 2011, it is claimed.

Police say lovesick fugitive Seif Eldin Mustafa, 58, used a fake bomb belt to force the plane en-route to Cairo to divert to the Mediterranean island in a desperate bid to see his family.

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After his capture, prosecutors said he 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?"

Egyptian authorities have now requested Mustafa's extradition in order to prosecute him in his own country, state media reported.

It is believed he had not seen his wife and their four children since around 1994 after he moved to Egypt but was imprisoned on forgery and fraud charges.

He later escaped from jail in 2011 during riots that ousted then-president Hosni Mubarak. This resulted in his passport being blacklisted which prevented him from travelling abroad.

The details emerge 24 hours after Mustafa held the 72 passengers and crew aboard the plane hostage for six hours. He eventually surrendered while on the tarmac at the Cyprus airport.

Meanwhile, his estranged wife has said: "I'm so embarrassed by all the publicity and I don't want to see him," a source told MailOnline.

The source added: 'He asked police this morning to speak to his wife but they told him she is refusing to see him. He was also asking police if he'd be returned to Egypt - he seems afraid of being sent back.

The Egypt Air Airbus A-320 sits on the tarmac of Larnaca airport after it was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus. Photo / AFP
The Egypt Air Airbus A-320 sits on the tarmac of Larnaca airport after it was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus. Photo / AFP

"He appears a bit mentally unstable though not angry. He has four adult children from his Cypriot ex-wife, all live in Cyprus. He says he hasn't spoken to them since he left Cyprus in 1994.

"His wife is mortified by all the publicity, very upset and embarrassed."

The source added Mustafa's estranged wife had a child with another man after he left Cyprus, though it wasn't clear if she had ever remarried.

Meanwhile, Mustafa said nothing today during his brief court hearing but gave the peace sign to reporters as he was whisked away in a police car from the courthouse in Larnaca, Cyprus.

Police told the court that the 58-year-old faces possible charges of hijacking, kidnapping people with the aim of taking them to an unknown destination, reckless and threatening behaviour and offences that breach the anti-terror law.

Judge Maria Loizou said she found the police's request for the maximum eight-day detention necessary because of fears that the suspect might flee and the fact that he admitted to the hijacking in a voluntary statement to police.

But as he left in a police car, he gave the peace sign to journalists attending the hearing at the courthouse, which is less than a half a mile away from where the hijacking unfolded.

Mustafa will not face any formal charges until a later hearing and only at that point will he be expected to enter a plea.

Cyprus authorities have described Mustafa as "psychologically unstable" and said the case was not 'terrorism-related'.

The EgyptAir plane hijacking suspect is escorted by Cyprus police officers as he leaves a court. Photo / AP
The EgyptAir plane hijacking suspect is escorted by Cyprus police officers as he leaves a court. Photo / AP

He is accused of forcing the plane to divert to Larnaca airport on the island's south coast by threatening to detonate an explosives belt that turned out to be fake.

Mustafa hijacked the domestic EgyptAir jet after taking off from Alexandria and forcing it to re-route to Cyprus's Larnaca airport, where he took several passengers and crew hostage and demanded to see his Cypriot wife.

The hostage situation on the tarmac came to a dramatic end just before 1pm as one of the pilots escaped out of a cockpit window, moments before authorities arrested Mustafa.

His arrest followed comments by an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official that he was "not a terrorist, he's an idiot. Terrorists are crazy but they aren't stupid. This guy is."

The last remaining hostages, all non-Egyptian men, were seen running over the tarmac before the hijacker gave himself up.

Mustafa disembarked from the plane at around 14.40 local time with his hands up and threw some items on the ground, which were picked up by police and are being examined.

In the wake of his arrest, Cypriot authorities were able to determine that Mustafa's suicide belt had been a fake.

During the hostage situation on the tarmac, Mustafa made a series of erratic requests, including asking to meet with representatives of the European Union, and to be taken to other airports.

A picture from the tarmac shows the moment the attacker hands over a four-page letter intended for his wife, as a female airport official stands with her head in her hands.

While not initially making any demands beyond his wife and asylum, the hijacker then asked in his letter for the release of 63 female prisoners in Egypt, according to Cypriot TV station Sigma Live.

Sources said Mustafa added in his letter that the people of Egypt are going through hard times because of the military government, claiming it was 'arresting, jailing, and torturing people.'

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters the incident appeared to be motivated by personal reasons and 'is not terrorism-related'

Asked about reports that the hijacker had demanded to see a Cypriot woman, Anastasiades laughed and said: "Always there is a woman."

Questions have now been raised as to how he was able to embark on the plane wearing the fake suicide vest.

Egyptian authorities promised to tighten airport security in the wake of the downing of a Russian Metrojet airplane in October last year, where all 224 passengers died.

Investigations later found that explosives had been smuggled onto the Airbus A321-231, most likely at Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, which then crashed minutes after it took off from the Red Sea resort.

- Daily Mail

- Daily Mail

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