cyprus airplane egypt.jpg
Photograph: EPA/KATIA CHRISTODOULOU

Egypt on Wednesday requested Cyprus to hand over an Egyptian man accused of hijacking a passenger aircraft and forcing it to fly to Cyprus the day before, prosecutors said.

A statement from Egypt’s chief prosecutor said it is asking for Seif al-Din Mustafa’s extradition in order to conduct an inquiry in Cairo into Tuesday's hijacking of the EgyptAir plane.

The handover request is based on a 1996 extradition treaty between Egypt and Cyprus, the statement said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Cypriot prosecutors had ordered Mustafa to be kept in custody for an initial eight days pending investigations, Greek television network Skai reported.

Depending on how the investigation develops, the length of time spent in custody may be extended, the broadcaster added.

Mustafa, 58, used a fake explosive belt made of mobile phone covers and cables to seize the plane, which was on a flight from Alexandria to Cairo, forcing it to instead land in Cyprus.

He then held the passengers and crew members as hostages on the landed plane and demanded to see his Cypriot ex-wife with whom he is said to have several children.

"What should someone do, who hasn't seen his wife and kids for 24 years, because the Egyptian government won't let him [leave]?" he was quoted as saying by Skai.

According to Cypriot state television, the hijacker initially demanded the release of detained female Egyptian opposition activists and requested asylum in Europe for himself.

The flight's 55 passengers and 15 crew were released unharmed in Cyprus and flown back to Egypt late Tuesday.

Egyptian police alleged that Mustafa had a criminal record for forgery and was also suspected in a number of fraud, theft and narcotics cases.

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