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EgyptAir Hijacking: 'Unstable' Man Faces Extradition; A Selfie Explained

EgyptAir hijack suspect Seif Eldin Mustafa (middle) is escorted by Cypriot police officers as he leaves a court after a remand hearing in Cyprus.
Petros Karadjias
EgyptAir hijack suspect Seif Eldin Mustafa (middle) is escorted by Cypriot police officers as he leaves a court after a remand hearing in Cyprus.

The hijacker of the Cairo-bound EgyptAir flight, identified by authorities as Egyptian national Seif Eldin Mustafa, has been remanded to police custody for eight days in Cyprus, where he forced the plane to land on Tuesday after telling the crew he was armed with explosives.

The explosives turned out to be fake and Mustafa admitted to hijacking the plane, authorities said. He is being investigated on charges including hijacking, illegal possession of explosives and abduction, according to The Associated Press.

The news service reports that Egypt filed a formal extradition request on Wednesday.

Cypriot officials have described Mustafa as psychologically "unstable," Joanna Kakissis, reporting from Greece, told our Newscast unit.

Not long after the hijacking, which ended peacefully about six hours after it began, it became clear that the incident was not related to terrorism. Instead, Cypriot authorities say it stemmed from family discord. Joanna said that "the 59-year-old suspect initially asked to speak to his ex-wife — who is from Cyprus." She adds:

"Cypriot police say the couple have four children. Mustafa's ex-wife came to the airport, but police prevented her from entering the plane. The police say he then asked for political asylum and to speak to European Union leaders. Cypriot government sources describe Mustafa as 'unstable.' "

Though the suspect allowed most of the 72 passengers and crew to disembark the plane once it landed in Cyprus, he kept Western foreigners on the plane. One such foreigner was Brit Ben Innes. He told The Sun that he "wanted to take the selfie of a lifetime" by posing with the alleged hijacker.

"I figured if his bomb was real I'd nothing lose anyway, so took a chance to get a closer look at it," Innes told the newspaper. "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."

Another passenger, an Italian man named Andrea Banchetti, was less amused.

According to the AP, Banchetti told Rome's La Repubblica newspaper that he should have "slapped" Innes for taking the photo.

"That guy could have had a potato in his belt, but how do you go up to him that way and take a photo of him?" Banchetti said. "'Are you a fool?' I said in English."

Meanwhile, Innes' mother, Pauline, took umbrage with the characterization of the photograph, according to The Telegraph.

"All we can say is that the picture is clearly not a selfie as everyone has been describing it," she said. "You can clearly see that it is not Ben who is taking the picture. He's in it but he's not taking it."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.