EgyptAir Hijacking: Hostage taker arrested in Cyprus after plane diverted

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EgyptAir Plane Hijacker Arrested

A hijacker who took dozens of hostages aboard a commercial jet over what appeared to be a "personal" matter involving a woman was arrested after an hours-long standoff Tuesday, authorities said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Cyprus confirmed around 7:45 a.m. ET that all of the passengers and crew had been safely freed.

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EgyptAir Hijacking: Hostage taker arrested in Cyprus after plane diverted
An unidentified man stuggles with another as he climbs out of the cockpit window of the hijacked Egyptair Airbus A320 at Larnaca Airport in Larnaca, Cyprus, March 29, 2016 REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man climbs out of the cockpit window of the hijacked Egyptair Airbus A320 at Larnaca Airport in Larnaca, Cyprus, March 29, 2016 REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
A man climbs out of the cockpit window of the hijacked Egyptair Airbus A320 at Larnaca Airport in Larnaca, Cyprus, March 29, 2016 REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Unidentified people leave the hijacked Egyptair Airbus A320 at Larnaca Airport in Larnaca, Cyprus, March 29, 2016 REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
A man thought to be the hijacker leaves the hijacked Egyptair Airbus A320 at Larnaca Airport in Larnaca, Cyprus, March 29, 2016 REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
Cypriot policemen stand guard in the vicinity of Larnaca airport where an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 (C) sits on the tarmac after being hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016. A hijacker seized an Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Cyprus, but nearly all of the passengers were quickly released and officials said the incident was not linked to terrorism. / AFP / BEHROUZ MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man climbs out of the cockpit window an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 parked at the tarmac of Larnaca airport after being hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016. The hijacker who seized the Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Cyprus has been detained, Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said. / AFP / BEHROUZ MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers evacuate a hijacked EgyptAir Airbus 320 plane at Larnaca airport, Cyprus, March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE
Passengers of an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 which was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus stand at Larnaca airport after disembarking the plane on March 29, 2016. A hijacker seized the Egyptian airliner and diverted it to Cyprus, before releasing all the passengers except four foreigners and the crew, officials and the airline said. / AFP / GEORGE MICHAEL (Photo credit should read GEORGE MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Police stand guard at Larnaca Airport near a hijacked Egyptair Airbus A320 , March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Media gather at Larnaca Airport near a hijacked Egyptair Airbus A320 , March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
Cypriot security forces cordon off the area around Larnaca airport where an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 (C) is seen on the tarmac after being hijacked and diverted to Cyprus on March 29, 2016. / AFP / BEHROUZ MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers of an EgyptAir Airbus A-320 which was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus stand at Larnaca airport after disembarking the plane on March 29, 2016. A hijacker seized the Egyptian airliner and diverted it to Cyprus, before releasing all the passengers except four foreigners and the crew, officials and the airline said. / AFP / GEORGE MICHAEL (Photo credit should read GEORGE MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Its over. The #hijacker arrested. #LarnacaAirport # Egyptair
Passengers and crew leave the hijacked Egyptair Airbus A320 at Larnaca Airport in Larnaca, Cyprus, March 29, 2016 REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
Congratulations to the #Cyprus Police and @CyprusMFA for their efforts to end the #hijacking & ensure the safety of all passengers and crew
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The drama unfolded aboard EgyptAir Flight MS181, which was on a domestic flight en route from Alexandria to Cairo.

A hijacker who claimed to have an explosive belt ordered the plane to diverted to either Turkey or Cyprus, according to officials. The belt was later deemed a fake.

SEE MORE: A Look Back at Historic Hijackings

The Airbus A320 flew to the Cypriot port city of Larnaca and landed at around 7:50 a.m. local time (12:50 a.m. ET) at which point negotiations got underway, EgyptAir said.

The majority of the passengers were soon released, with just four foreigners and seven crew members, including the pilot, left on board.

The hijacker spent the first three hours of the standoff demanding to speak to his Cypriot ex-wife or give her a letter, Cyprus government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides told NBC News.

"Our people -- they were talking to him all the time in order to keep him busy and allow people to come out," Christodoulides said, adding that negotiators asked for more hostages be released in return for each of his requests.

The hijacker -- who was identified by the Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Seif Eldin Mustafa -- then shifted his demands.

"He asked for asylum, he wanted to talk with someone from the European Union ... It seems that he was an unstable personality," the spokesman explained.

Live footage from the scene shortly before the arrest was announced showed the pilot dangling from a rope out of the cockpit window and dropping to the ground. Two people were later seen coming down stairs parked next to the jet.

Christodoulides said that once the passengers and crew had been freed the hijacker -- in his early 50s -- was alone in the plane "so he didn't have any other option than to come out."

There were conflicting reports about how many people were on board -- with some officials saying it was carrying 55 and others suggesting that figure was 81.

The passenger list included eight Americans, according to Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry.

SEE MORE: Hijacker Diverts Jet, Seizes Hostages

It appears that the "explosive" belt the hijacker claimed to have was a fake, Christodoulides said.

Egypt's Civil Aviation Authority also said the belt turned out to be fake, citing Cypriot officials.

The president of Egypt praised Cypriot authorities for "their swift and professional response" -- a sentiment coupled with relief expressed by others following the bloodless end of the standoff.

A government source suggested early on that the hijacker's motive seemed to be about a "personal" matter involving a woman. The hijacker is believed to be an Egyptian national.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, too, said the hijacking was "not something that has to do with terrorism."

When asked by reporters if he could confirm reports that the incident had something to do with a woman, he chuckled "always, there is a woman."

Egypt's Minister of Civil Aviation Sherif Fathy Ateyya defended his country's airport security at a press briefing during the seven-hour hostage ordeal.

The country's Interior Ministry later released surveillance video purporting to show the hijacker going through security.

Tuesday's hijacking put Egyptian aviation security back under scrutiny, coming less than a year after a Russian passenger jet crashed after taking off from the country's Sharm el-Sheikh airport in October.

ISIS claimed responsibility for downing the Metrojet plane and the tragedy raised questions about how any potential explosives may have made it on board and whether there were security failings on Egypt's end.

EgyptAir's last hijacking was 30 years ago when an Athens-to-Cairo flight was seized by terrorists and diverted to Malta. When negotiations failed, Egyptian troops stormed the aircraft but the hijackers fought back with hand grenades. Sixty of the 90 passengers were killed.

Also: See a hostage repel from the plane's cockpit:
Watch Hostage Repel From Cockpit as Hijack Standoff Ends

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