A British man has shot to fame after clicking “the selfie of a life time” with the hijacker of the EgyptAir jet during the hostage drama in Cyprus, an act he said was aimed at staying “cheerful”.
Benjamin Innes was one of the last captives to be released by Seif al-Din Mustafa during yesterday’s six-hour hijacking episode and took a picture with the man who claimed to be wearing a suicide vest.
A photograph shows Innes grinning broadly as he stands next to Mustafa in the cabin of the hijacked Airbus 320 as it sat on the runway of Cyprus’s Larnaca airport. He was one eight Britons reported to be on plane.
Innes, 26, was rapped by security experts last night for risking passengers’ lives with his astonishing hijack photo. Innes was among the 62 people on board an EgyptAir flight from Alexandria to Cairo yesterday when Mustafa seized control and threatened to detonate a bomb belt. Mustafa forced the Airbus A320 to land in Larnaca, Cyprus.
Innes took his chance to take “the selfie of a lifetime” during the deadlock, which saw the jet surrounded by heavily armed troops.
The health and safety auditor from Leeds said, “I’m not sure why I did it, I just threw caution to the wind while trying to stay cheerful in the face of adversity. I figured if his bomb was real I’d nothing to lose anyway. So took a chance to get a closer look at it.”
“I got one of the cabin crew to translate for me and asked him if I could do a selfie with him. 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,” he told The Sun.
Innes said panicking passengers calmed down once the plane landed and Mustafa allowed women and children to leave.
But he was one of three foreign passengers and four crew made to stay with the hijacker, who began issuing bizarre demands.
“I could see he had what looked like a bomb and I was scared, but he didn’t seem particularly anxious as we first landed. He eventually let virtually all the passengers leave, but I was left behind with two other Brits,” Innes said.
“After about half an hour at Larnaca I asked for a photo with him as we were sitting around waiting. I thought, ‘Why not? If he blows us all up it won’t matter anyway’,” he said.
“I also thought it would be a way to see whether his device was real. I could see something taped around his waist and he was holding on to some kind of a trigger. It was hard to be sure, but I reckoned it was more likely to be fake after I got a close look at it,” he added.