A man has climbed from the cockpit window of a hijacked plane in Cyprus amid reports the hijacker has been arrested.
After the man, in a white, short-sleeved shirt, lowered himself from the cockpit, four other people ran down the plane’s steps. It is not known if any hostages are still on board.
The hijacker, reportedly strapped with explosives, took over the EgyptAir plane seven hours ago and the flight was diverted to Larnaca Airport, where snipers have had high-calibre weapons trained on the jet.
Cyprus broadcasters say the hijacker has emerged from the aircraft with his hands held up and Cyprus’ foreign minister has tweeted: “It’s over. The #hijacker arrested.”
Nearby Makenzy Beach, which is popular with tourists, had been evacuated while negotiations went on.
In Cairo, which was the plane’s original destination, there are security concerns over another EgyptAir flight, which has reportedly been cancelled in connection with the hostage situation.
The hijacked flight MSR181 had been carrying 55 passengers, including four Britons and one Irish citizen.
The hijacker – named as Seif Eldin Mustafa – allowed most to disembark but the crew and four foreigners were kept on board.
The Cyprus foreign ministry described Mustafa as ‘unstable’ and said he appeared to be Egyptian.
It added that the incident was not terror related.
There are reports the hijacker has asked to see his ex-wife, who is said to live in the nearby village of Oroklini.
Witnesses said they saw the hijacker throw a letter on to the tarmac and demand it be delivered to his estranged wife.
However, the Cypriot state broadcaster is saying the man wants female prisoners in Egypt to be released.
Egypt’s civil aviation minister claimed no demands had been made.
Sherif Fathy refused to reveal the nationalities of those being held, and added: “We do not know whether the equipment is real or not – a true bomb.”
The A320 plane departed on an internal flight from Alexandria in Egypt at 8am (5am UK time).
A hijacker contacted the control tower at 8.30am and the plane was given permission to land at 8.50am.
As the news emerged the Cypriot Civil Aviation Ministry said “a passenger wearing a suicide belt told (the pilot) he had an explosives vest”.
A crisis team including ambulances was deployed to the airport.
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.
Earlier reports in Cyprus incorrectly named the hijacker as Egyptian national Ibrahim Samaha, a 27-year-old professor of veterinary medicine. However, a man claiming to be Mr Samaha told media outlets he had been an innocent passenger.
Larnaca Airport has been closed and flights diverted to Paphos, while Egypt is sending a plane to collect stranded passengers.
Israel scrambled warplanes in its airspace as a precaution in response to the hijacking, according to an Israeli military source.
The hijacking 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.