The man who took a selfie with the EgyptAir hijacker while being held hostage has been identified as a 26-year-old British man from Leeds.
Ben Innes posed for the photo with Seif Eldin Mustafa, who hijacked EgyptAir MS181 as it headed to Cairo and forced it to fly to Cyprus with 62 people on board.
Mr Innes, a Health and Safety auditor, was one of four “foreigners” held hostage along members of the crew, during the six-hour standoff at Cyprus’ Larnaca airport.
Seif Eldin Mustafa: Cypriot authorities have described him as “unstable”.
He was one of the three last remaining hostages seen running across the tarmac in the moments before Mustafa disembarked the plane and surrendered to police.
Mr Innes is believed to have approached hijacker Mustafa while being held hostage on the tarmac, and sent it to one of his flatmates as well as other friends.
“I have no idea why he took the selfie but I imagine he probably volunteered to take it as he’s no afraid to shy away from anything,” Mr Innes’ flatmate Chris Tundogan told MailOnline.
“I find it pretty mental but that’s just Ben I guess!”
The full details of the hijacking remain unclear – including the motive.
Mr Innes, centre, runs to safety with the other passengers held captive on EgyptAir Airbus A-320. Photo / Getty Images
Terrorism was not initially suspected. Cypriot authorities described Mustafa as “unstable” but did not elaborate on his mental state or background.
Mustafa was taken into custody amid a series of fast-moving events that included an escape by an apparent hostage who slithered down a rope from a cockpit window. Cyprus’s foreign minister then posted a Twitter message saying the hijacker was arrested.
In Cairo, officials at EgyptAir also declared an end to the hijacking, which began during a domestic flight in Egypt. It concluded with only a handful of passengers and crew as hostages after the hijacker freed most others at Larnaca International Airport, where the plane landed.
Earlier, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the hijacking was “not something which has to do with terrorism,” but the reason was not fully apparent.
Cyprus’s state broadcaster said the hijacker asked for the release of political prisoners in Egypt. Earlier, however, a Cyprus government spokesman speculated that the hijacker was driven by a possible failed relationship after asking to deliver a letter to a woman who lives on the eastern Mediterranean island.
EgyptAir Flight MS 181 was flying from the northern Egyptian port of Alexandria to the capital, Cairo. Instead, the plane was forced to head north to Larnaca, a port on the southern coast of Cyprus.
Sherif Fathy, Egypt’s minister of aviation, told reporters that the hijacker had held seven hostages before his arrest, including the captain, his assistant, one flight attendant, a security officer and three passengers. No further details on identities or passenger nationalities were given.
Later, Fathy said some phone calls made by the hijacker while aboard the plane pointed to possible personal and mental problems.
A man leaves the hijacked aircraft of Egyptair from the pilot’s window. Photo / Getty Images
Fathy said the pilot and hijacker had a discussion over whether to fly to Turkey or Cyprus, and decided on European Union-member Cyprus – about 300 miles to the northeast – apparently because the plane did not have enough fuel to reach Turkey.
An Egyptian civil aviation authority spokesman told The Washington Post that 56 people were on board, including 30 Egyptians, 11 Italians, eight Americans, two Belgians, two Greeks, a French citizen and a Syrian. He declined to comment further.
EgyptAir initially said there were 88 passengers on the plane.
Cypriot media reported that the hijacker wanted to see his ex-wife, who lives in Larnaca. The woman was said to be on her way to the airport.
Militant attacks in Egypt have surged in recent years, driving tourists and foreign investors away as the government struggles to revive the economy.
Egypt’s U.S.-backed military is battling an Islamic State affiliate in the country’s northern Sinai Peninsula. In October, a Russian passenger plane was brought down over the Sinai by a bomb planted aboard, an attack that was claimed by the Islamic State.
Plane hijackings were once more common, but increased security and passenger screening have sharply reduced the number of aircraft commandeered in flight.
In February 2014, a man falsely claiming to have a bomb demanded that a Pegasus Airlines plane – traveling from Kharkiv, Ukraine, to Istanbul – be diverted to Sochi, Russia, which was then hosting the Winter Olympics. The pilot landed in Istanbul, telling the hijacker they were in Sochi. The man, who was apparently intoxicated, was arrested, and no passengers or crew were harmed.
Less than two weeks later, the co-pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines Flight from Addis Ababa to Rome took command of the aircraft and landed in Geneva, demanding asylum. He was arrested and no injuries occurred.
In March 2015, Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525, took control of the plane before crashing it in the French Alps, killing all 150 people aboard.