FighterSweep Fans, this one gets logged under the heading of, “You just cannot make this sh*t up.” Late last night, usually long after the point where I am unconcscious, an alert came through about a hijacking of an EgyptAir Flight 181, a short-haul flight out of Alexandria destined for Cairo.
An Airbus A320 with 55 (Roll ‘Em!) passengers aboard, had been forced to land at the airport at Larnaca, Cyprus, some three hundred miles away–and certainly not the intended destination. I was immediately reminded of an incident with EgyptAir, when the hijackers from the Achille Lauro departed on an EgyptAir flight and were subsequently forced to land at Sigonella after being intercepted by U.S. Navy F-14s off of the U.S.S. Saratoga. And we all know the rest of the laughable story involving a Navy Special Mission Unit and Italian Carabinieri.
Well, much like DG’s misfortune with the Italians, today’s story falls into the land of the surreal: the hijacker is not a terrorist. He’s just a dumba$$. Apparently, Seifedeen Mustafa–the nefarious ne’er-do-well in today’s episode–was not having much luck patching things up with his ex-wife, with whom he sired four children, and who also currently resides on the island nation in the eastern Mediterranean. He thought a letter would be the best way to communicate.
So, naturally, he thought hijacking an airliner full of people and turning it into his own personal air courier service would be a good idea. So in order to get his letter delivered, our buddy Seifedeen strapped a fake “suicide belt” to himself and ordered the crew to take him to Cyprus.
Here’s a breakdown of events for you:
- 0800L: EgyptAir Flight 181 departs Alexandria for Cairo.
- 0830L: Flight 181 contacts the tower at Larnaca, Cyprus, explains their predicament, and is allowed to land.
- 0845L: Flight 181 lands in Cyprus, taxis to a spot on the ramp, and shuts down.
Once on the ground, Mustafa gave a list of demands which included, first and foremost, the delivery of said written correspondence, as well as…the release of women held in Egyptian prisons. He later recanted that portion of the request, and instead made another list demands so incoherent it “couldn’t be taken seriously,” according to Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides.
Mustafa was seated at the back of the aircraft, according to witnesses, and the other passengers had no idea they had been hijacked until the crew informed them. An Egyptian passenger, later identified as Farah el-Dabani, told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiyah TV network, “There was panic at the beginning, but the crew told us to be quiet. They did a good job to keep us all quiet so the hijacker does not do anything rash.”
He released most of the passengers fairly early on, but kept three and four members of the crew for several additional hours. One of the last people to get off the plane, reportedly a crew member, escaped through a cockpit window and slid down to the ground. Mustafa later walked off the plane and was taken into custody. He was indeed wearing a belt, but it contained no explosives.
“He’s not a terrorist, he’s an idiot,” Egypt’s foreign ministry said in a statement to a Cairo-based journalist quoted by Reuters. “Terrorists are crazy but they aren’t stupid. This guy is.”
Israel reportedly scrambled its fighters to set up a precautionary CAP (Combat Air Patrol) off the coast, in the event the airliner came their direction.
All’s well that ends well, right? I’m sure if things don’t work out with the ex-wife, because…why wouldn’t they…he can maybe get a date with one of the female prisoners whose release he attempted to champion. What’s the old saying? Denial ain’t a river in Egypt? He’d have been much better suited to just mail the letter and allow the flight continue the rest of the way down de Nile.