The hijacking Tuesday morning of an EgyptAir commercial flight, which originated in Alexandria headed for Cairo, by a “psychologically unstable” man was likely to deepen concerns about Egyptian airport security. Although it did not appear to be terrorism-related, authorities said, it occurred months after a bomb brought down a Russian airliner departing from Red Sea resorts, dealing a blow to the reputation of the country’s tourism and security sectors.
It was not immediately clear whether the hijacker was armed, but he claimed to be wrapped in a suicide belt that authorities have since said was not real. Given the heightened concerns over the threat posed by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, and other terrorist threats, authorities reacted as if the hijacker “represented the highest possible danger,” the Guardian reported.
“Generally it’s up to the captain of the aircraft to determine whether they have someone with suicidal intent,” Philip Baum, author of “Violence in the Skies: A History of Aircraft Hijacking and Bombing,” told the Guardian. “Obviously first you’d try to overpower them if so. But if they feel it could be managed by following his demands, a landing without anyone being hurt, then that’s what you’d do.”
— Raven*H⚓️U*Wolf (@RavenHUWolf) March 29, 2016
How the hell can a person with an explosives belt get through airport security, in our time, in a country like Egypt?#Cyprus
— Ruben Avxhiu (@RubenAvxhiu) March 29, 2016
The hijacker’s motives remained unclear, but some reports said the man, identified by Cypriot officials as Seif Eldin Mustafa, wanted to speak with his estranged Cypriot wife. Other reports indicated he wanted the release of female prisoners in Egypt.
The hours-long episode ended without injury. Eldin eventually stepped off the plane, surrendering himself with his hands in the air. Either way, social media users were quick to hold Egypt’s airport security accountable. Some took the moment to criticize the Egyptian government with sardonic jabs.
“Don't worry world, Egypt has made airport security its top priority by imprisoning activists, intellectuals and journalists #EgyptAir,” one Twitter user wrote.
Egypt has been rattled by instability beginning with a 2011 uprising that toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak. Since then, the country has experienced routine violence, including some carried out by an ISIS-affiliated group operating in the Sinai. In October, the group, which goes by the name the Sinai Province, brought down a Russian airliner carrying 224 people.
To be fair to Egypt's airport security, it's possible the highjacker threatened he had a suicide vest, when in fact he didnt. Time will tell
— Timothy E Kaldas (@tekaldas) March 29, 2016
2nd time in 6 months a bomb onboard a plane departing an Egypt airport? Urgent airport security improvements needed https://t.co/XlGcKOLVXm
— Michelle Dewberry (@MichelleDewbs) March 29, 2016
Was in Egypt less than a week ago & was pretty impressed with airport security, particularly post sharm-el-sheikh aviation security concerns
— Ryan Cummings (@Pol_Sec_Analyst) March 29, 2016