Tuesday 6 December 2016

'Only Ben could get a selfie' - identity of man who got photo with EgyptAir hijacker is revealed by sister

Published 29/03/2016 | 20:02

British passenger Ben Innes poses for a photograph alongside the hijacker Photo: Twitter
British passenger Ben Innes poses for a photograph alongside the hijacker Photo: Twitter

Throughout the day people have been wondering about the identity of a passenger who had the cheek to take pictures with the EgyptAir hijacker.

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Now the mystery is solved: he is a 26-year-old English man named Ben Innes.

Mr Innes's sister confirmed it was her brother in a tweet and friends from the University of York also recognised him.

"Only Ben could get a selfie!" she tweeted, with the #proud #EgyptAir hashtags.

 "This is not a surprise at all," a friend said. "Ben is a wild man and this is totally in character for him. He was a big rugby guy and very into his banter and didn't have much respect for authority."

Mr Innes's flatmate Chris Tundogan told MailOnline he had "no idea" why his friend had the photograph taken, adding: "I find it pretty mental, but that's just Ben I guess!"

Police stand guard at Larnaca Airport near a hijacked Egyptair Airbus A320 , March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
Police stand guard at Larnaca Airport near a hijacked Egyptair Airbus A320 , March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Mr Innes graduated in environmental science in 2011 and now lives in Leeds and works in health and safety.

His mother, Pauline Innes, was less keen to discuss but pointed out the photograph was not a selfie.

She said: "All we can say is that the picture is clearly not a selfie as everyone has been describing it.

"You can clearly see that it is not Ben who is taking the picture. He's in it but he's not taking it.

Screen grabbed image taken from Flightradar24 of EgyptAir plane MS181 which has landed in Cyprus after being hijacked while flying from Alexandria to Cairo, officials said. Flightradar24/PA Wire
Screen grabbed image taken from Flightradar24 of EgyptAir plane MS181 which has landed in Cyprus after being hijacked while flying from Alexandria to Cairo, officials said. Flightradar24/PA Wire

"But we don't want to speak about anything until he's back home."

Mr Innes, believed to be a health and safety auditor, is said to have approached the alleged hijacker while being held hostage on the tarmac, and sent the photograph to one of his flatmates as well as other friends, it has been reported.

Earlier today, the Egyptian plane forced to divert to Cyprus was due to an alleged hijacker who was wearing a fake suicide belt.

The captain and crew have been congratulated for how they dealt with the incident in which a man on board claimed to have an explosive belt and took people hostage.

The plane was carrying 56 passengers, including 26 foreigners, on an EgyptAir domestic flight from Alexandria to Cairo.

Most of those on board were freed shortly after the plane landed at Larnaca airport on the Mediterranean island at 8.50am, before the hijacker held seven people hostage for a number of hours.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We are relieved that the situation at Larnaca airport has now come to a safe conclusion. We are providing consular support to four British nationals caught up in today's events.

"We remain in close contact with the Cypriot and Egyptian authorities."

Diplomats in Dublin said they did not believe any Irish citizens had been caught up in the hijacking.

The man was arrested minutes after some of those being held were seen walking down the stairs of the plane, with another escaping through a cockpit window before they were led away by security officers.

EgyptAir said Cypriot authorities at the airport had confirmed "the explosive belt that the hijacker allegedly said that he was wearing is fake".

The Egyptian Minister of Tourism, Yehia Rashed, said: "We congratulate the EgyptAir captain and his crew for landing the plane safely and for putting the safety of the passengers as a priority, in a highly professional manner and in accordance with international aviation standards.

"The Egyptian Prime Minister, Sherif Ismail, was personally involved in helping to resolve this incident and EgyptAir is currently taking the necessary steps to bring back all passengers involved.

"We are assured by passengers on the flight that all security measures at Borg El Arab Airport were fully implemented."

Footage posted on the official Facebook page of Egypt's Ministry of Interior appears to show the hijacker passing through security before boarding the flight.

The man, circled in red, can be seen loading his bag to be scanned and calmly walking through a detector. He is then frisked by a security official before collecting his bag and walking off.

Another image posted on the page shows a scan taken of his bag, which appears largely empty.

Cypriot officials confirmed the incident had reached a peaceful conclusion.

Officials said early on that the hijacking was not an act of terrorism, and later that the man appeared to be psychologically unstable.

The man was said to have initially asked to speak with his Cypriot ex-wife, who police brought to the airport.

At one point he demanded the release of women held in Egyptian prisons, but he then dropped the demand and made others.

According to The Guardian, an official at Egypt's ministry of foreign affairs added: "He's not a terrorist, he's an idiot. Terrorists are crazy but they aren't stupid. This guy is."

Egypt's official Middle East News Agency identified the hijacker as Seifedeen Mustafa, without providing further details.

The hijacking will raise serious concerns over security at Egyptian airports, and one aviation expert claimed the incident was a return to "the security stone age".

David Learmount said it appeared the captain of the flight "didn't have faith in the security systems" and felt he had to follow the hijacker's demands, resulting in the "first major successful hijack since 9/11".

But he said the captain should have been confident that it was "impossible" for someone to have got through security with a suicide belt.

The incident comes just five months after 224 people were killed when a Russian aircraft crashed over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula minutes after it took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Russia later said an explosive device brought down the aircraft in October, and the extremist Islamic State group (IS) said it was responsible.

Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said: "I was glad to see a peaceful resolution to the hijacking incident at Larnaca airport in Cyprus earlier today.

"In the event, my department did not receive any request for consular assistance and, as far as I am aware, none of the passengers was travelling on an Irish passport."

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