A hijacker who took dozens of hostages aboard a commercial jet over what appeared to be a "personal" matter involving a woman was arrested after an hours-long standoff Tuesday, authorities said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Cyprus confirmed around 7:45 a.m. ET that all of the passengers and crew had been safely freed.
The drama unfolded aboard EgyptAir Flight MS181, which was on a domestic flight en route from Alexandria to Cairo. A hijacker who claimed to have an explosive belt ordered the plane to diverted to either Turkey or Cyprus, according to officials.
The Airbus A320 flew to the Cypriot port city of Larnaca and landed at around 7:50 a.m. local time (12:50 a.m. ET), where negotiations got underway, EgyptAir said.
The majority of the passengers were soon released, with just four foreigners and seven crew members left on board.
The hijacker spent the first three hours of the standoff demanding to speak to his Cypriot ex-wife, a high-level source close to the operation told NBC News.
"Our people they were talking to him all the time in order to keep him busy and allow people to come out," the source added, saying that negotiators asked that more hostages be released in return for each of his requests.
The hijacker — who was identified by the Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs asSeif Eldin Mustafa — then shifted his demands.
"He asked for asylum, he wanted to talk with someone from the European Union ... It seems that he was an unstable personality," the source explained, requesting anonymity due to the fluid nature of the investigation.
The source said that once the passengers and crew had been freed the hijacker was alone in the plane "so he didn't have any other option than to come out."
Live footage from the scene shortly before the arrest was announced showed the pilot dangling from a rope out of the cockpit window and dropping to the ground. Two people were later seen coming down stairs parked next to the jet.
There were conflicting reports about how many people were on board — with some officials saying it was carrying 55 and others suggesting that figure was 81.
The passenger list included eight Americans, according to Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry.
Authorities were examining whether the hijacker did actually have any explosives.
Earlier, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the hijacking was "not something that has to do with terrorism."
The same high-level source close to the operation had suggested early on that the hijacker's motive seemed to be about a "personal" matter involving a woman. The hijacker is believed to be an Egyptian national.