Negotiations with the hijacker of EgyptAir’s flight MS181 are ongoing and security officials are treating the hijacker’s threats as real, Egypt’s Minister of Civil Aviation Sherif Fathy said in a press conference Tuesday.
According to the minister, the hijacker claims to be wearing a suicide belt and, while authorities remain unsure whether the belt is real, they are “carefully” dealing with the security threat as real.
Fathy said that there are currently seven people still on the plane, including the plane’s pilot and co-pilot, one air hostess, a security official and three passengers. He declined to disclose the passengers’ nationalities.
Fathy also said that the hijacker’s demands “are not yet known” and that negotiations are still underway.
Following the presser, Cyprus’ state broadcasting reported that the hijacker has demanded the release of prisoners in Egypt.
However, Cypriot President stated earlier that the hijacker is “not a terrorist” and has “personal motives” for the hijacking.
The Guardian also quoted an “official” from Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying the hijacker is “not a terrorist, he’s an idiot. Terrorists are crazy but they aren’t stupid. This guy is.”
Egypt’s MFA spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid denied he had issued “any statements or remarks” to The Guardian about the hijacking incident.
Spokesman for Egypt’s presidency Alaa Youssef told CNN that the hijacker is Seif El Din Mustafa but did not disclose Mustafa’s nationality.
Reports that quickly went viral had stated that the hijacker is Ibrahim Samaha, a veterinary professor at Alexandria University. However, Samaha, who is indeed a professor, told BBC Arabic that he was on board the plane but was not the hijacker.
Egypt’s Cabinet released a statement apologizing to Samaha for the misidentification.
Meanwhile, Fathy refused to reveal the name of the hijacker during the press conference, saying his name “is not helpful” to ongoing security investigations.
Egypt’s ambassador to Cyprus is currently cooperating with Cypriot officials and following up on the situation as it develops, according to a statement from Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This story is developing.