UPDATED: EgyptAir plane hijacked, three crew and four others held hostage

A man thought to be strapped with explosives hijacked an Egyptian plane on a flight between Alexandria and Cairo on Tuesday and forced it to land in Cyprus, Egyptian officials said.

According to Cypriot news reports, the hijacker has "personal motives", having asked to speak with his former wife, who lives in Cyprus.

Egyptian Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy stated at a news conference: “Up to now we have not had any effective demands that we can announce.”

After the EgyptAir plane landed at Larnaca airport, the hijacker released all those onboard except the crew and a handful of passengers, identified as two Britons, one Italian and one Irishman. Later, some members of the crew were also seen leaving the aircraft.

Fathy later told reporters that the remaining hostages were: three foreign passengers, a security guard, a female crew member, the pilot and the co-pilot.

About 60 people, including seven crew, had been onboard at the time of the hijacking, Egyptian and Cypriot officials said.

"The negotiations with the hijacker have resulted in the release of all the plane passengers with the exception of the crew and five foreigners," the airline said in a statement.

Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said the plane's pilot, Omar al-Gammal, had informed authorities that he was threatened by a passenger wearing a suicide explosives belt and forced him to land in Larnaca.

A Cyprus Foreign Ministry official said he could not confirm the man was rigged with explosives.

The plane was an Airbus 320, Egypt's aviation ministry said.

Egyptian state media initially named the hijacker as Ibrahim Samaha, an Egyptian veterinary surgeon. However, Samaha later spoke with BBC Arabic, telling them that he was not the hijacker, but one of the passengers and had been released.

However, Cypriot state media reported that the hijacker was acting on personal motives, and had asked to contact his ex-wife, who lives in Cyprus.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters, "It is not something which has to do with terrorism."

Asked if a woman was involved he said "There is always a woman involved."

According to The Guardian newspaper, the hijacker's ex-wife later turned up at the airport, apparently seeking to talk sense to her former partner.

Passengers on the plane included eight Britons and 10 Americans, three security sources at Alexandria airport said.

Israel scrambled warplanes in its airspace as a precaution in response to the hijacking, according to an Israeli military source.

Egypt's vital tourism industry was already reeling from the crash of a Russian passenger plane in the Sinai in late October. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said it was brought down by a terrorist attack. Islamic State has said it planted a bomb on board, killing all 224 people on board.

Cyprus has seen little militant activity for decades, despite its proximity to the Middle East. A botched attempt by Egyptian commandos to storm a hijacked airliner at Larnaca airport led to the disruption of diplomatic relations between Cyprus and Egypt in 1978.

In 1988, a Kuwaiti airliner which had been hijacked from Bangkok to Kuwait in a 16-day siege had a stopover in Larnaca, where two hostages were killed.

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