A hijacker strapped with fake explosives has been arrested in Cyprus after several of his hostages fled the plane.
Egyptian national Seif Eldin Mustafa emerged from the aircraft with his hands aloft after a stand-off lasting eight hours.
A hijacker with a fake suicide belt emerges from the EgyptAir plane with his hands aloft – but his motive remains unclear. His surrender came minutes after a man in uniform was filmed escaping from the cockpit window.
The remaining seven hostages were then seen leaving the plane in two separate groups – the latter running. All are safe.
Within an hour it was established that the suicide belt the hijacker was wearing was fake.
The hijacker took over the EgyptAir jet during an internal flight from Alexandria to Cairo at about 8.30am (5.30am UK time), leading the plane to be diverted to Larnaca Airport in Cyprus.
As the news emerged the Cypriot Civil Aviation Ministry said “a passenger wearing a suicide belt told (the pilot) he had an explosives vest”.
Nearby Makenzy Beach, which is popular with tourists, was evacuated while negotiations went on, while police snipers trained on the jet.
Flight MSR181 had been carrying 55 passengers – including four Britons and one Irish citizen.
The hijacker allowed most to disembark but the crew and four foreigners were kept on board.
There were reports he had asked to see his ex-wife, who was said to live in the nearby village of Oroklini.
Witnesses told state TV they saw Mustafa throw a letter on to the tarmac and demand it be delivered to his estranged wife.
However, the Cypriot state broadcaster reported the hijacker wanted female prisoners in his native Egypt to be released.
Mustafa is thought to be in his late fifties and runs a food company.
Egyptian prime minister Sherif Ismail said his motives remained unclear.
“At some moments he asked to meet with a representative of the European Union and at other points he asked to go to another airport but there was nothing specific.”
The nationalities of those who were held have not been revealed.
As well four Britons and one Irish citizen, the 26 foreigners on board included eight Americans, four Dutch, two Belgians, a French national, an Italian, two Greeks and one Syrian.
Larnaca Airport has been closed and flights diverted to Paphos, while Egypt is sending a plane to collect stranded passengers.
The hostage situation reportedly led to another EgyptAir flight, from Cairo to New York, being cancelled due to security concerns.
Israel scrambled warplanes in its airspace as a precaution in response to the hijacking.
The incident calls into question air security in Egypt five months after a Russian plane crashed over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board.
Russia said a bomb brought down the plane and the attack was claimed by IS.