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Cypriot court orders EgyptAir hijacking suspect into police custody

Police have described Seif al-Din Mohamed Mostafa as 'psychologically unstable' but may charge him with offences related to an anti-terror law
A handcuffed Seif al-Din Mohamed Mostafa leaves a court in Larnaca on Wednesday (AFP)

The man accused of hijacking an EgyptAir plane and forcing it to land in Cyprus was taken into police custody for eight days after his first court appearance on Wednesday.

Police told the court in Larnaca that Egyptian Seif al-Din Mohamed Mostafa, 58, faces possible charges of hijacking, kidnapping people with the aim of taking them to an unknown destination, reckless and threatening behaviour, and offences that breach the anti-terror law.

Mostafa did not speak in court but gave the victory sign to journalists as he left the courthouse, which is less than a kilometre away from Larnaca airport where the end of the hijacking unfolded on Tuesday.

Mostafa, who has a Cypriot ex-wife, will not face any formal charges until a later hearing and will be expected to enter a plea then. 

However, on Wednesday Egypt demanded that Cyprus extradite Mostafa to face charges in Egypt. 

Cyprus authorities have described Mostafa as "psychologically unstable" and said the case was not "terrorism-related".

He is accused of forcing the plane to divert to Larnaca airport on the island's south coast on Tuesday by threatening to detonate an explosives belt that turned out to be fake.

Authorities allege that his motives were personal and related to his Cypriot ex-wife, with whom he is reported to have had children.

The hijacking triggered a six-hour stand-off at the airport and the closure of the main entry point for tourists to the Mediterranean resort island.

Most of the 55 passengers on the plane - originally travelling from Alexandria to Cairo - were quickly released after it had landed.

Social media response 

A passenger, AbdAllah El Ashmawy, has become a big hit with social media users after he posted a Facebook status, talking about his fellow passenger's reactions to the hijacking. 

He claims that one man called all his relatives one by one to tell them "I'm kidnapped" while another passenger called his wife to tell her about a secret bank account. A third, meanwhile, called his wife to say that he had almost managed to smuggle a frozen chicken through security but was stopped at the last minute.

In a seperate incident, one of the passengers, 26-year-old Ben Innes, managed to pose with Mostafa for a selfie which later went viral. 

The photo was quickly circulated online, showing a grinning Innes and a rather expressionless Mostafa.

“I got one of the cabin crew to translate for me and asked him if I could do a selfie with him," Innes told The Sun. "He just shrugged OK, so I stood by him and smiled for the camera while a stewardess did the snap. It has to be the best selfie ever.

"I just threw caution to the wind while trying to stay cheerful in the face of adversity," he added. "I figured if his bomb was real I’d nothing to lose anyway, so took a chance to get a closer look at it."

Some of the passengers rushed to escape only minutes before the stand-off ended, including one uniformed man who was seen clambering out of a cockpit window and dropping to the ground.

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