tell your stories. the fbi says it's retrieved data from the san bernardino gunman's iphone despite apple's refusal to help. ♪ ♪ we also have breaking news this hour for you. an egypt air passenger plane has been highjacked. we'll have the very latest as we get it. you are watching al jazeera live from our hea headquarters here n doha. pakistan says hundreds of people have been arrested following a security crack down after the gotting of a park in lahore.
thailand's government says it will return the country to democracy. and we'll tell you why the former leader fidel castro wasn't happy about barack obama's visit to cuba. ♪ ♪ we have a breaking story for you. the egyptian civil aviation authority says a passenger play plane flying from alexandria to the capital cairo has been forced to land at the airport in eye prussian, thercyprus, thereg reports of how many people are aboard. that's a live shot we have managed to acquire of the air bus aircraft. coming to us via egyptian television. various people talking about this on twitter. it's difficult for us to separate out what we know from what we don't know.
although egypt air on their twitter feed are saying one of their planes has been highjacked. also people on twitter based there saying the local ministers of defense, foreign affairs and transport have rushed to the airport. the airport has now, and these are unconfirmed reports. the airport has now been declared closed. there are also other reports that the highjacker, singular, or highjackers, plural, has allowed women and children with egyptian nationality to disembark the aircraft. we cannot confirm that yet. it's unclear whether there were 81, 82, or 65 passengers on board. there were seven crew members. it's an air bus a320 it landed at 8:46. we have an earlier report saying the pilot or somebody on the flight deck declared an
emergency. joining us now on the line from athens is free-lance journalist what are you hearing? >> reporter: well, we can confirm from the cyprus foreign ministries that the plane was indeed highjacked this egypt arizona liner, it landed and from we are hearing at the moment, the negotiations seem to be underway. between the highjackers or highjacker, we are not sure if we are talking about one person or more between the cyprus authorities there seems to be some talks apparently underway. we can confirm that this was a domestic flight. that it was traveling from alexandria to cairo. there were conflicting reports as to how many people were on board. we can say that there were at least 50 passengers on board. and we are hearing that women and children may be allowed to disembark the plane. now, this, a lot of the
information that's coming out, is obviously last minute, unconfirmed. greek media are showing the plane currently on the tarmac. i mean, we are having a very clear view of the plane there. and we have just heard that there is a team of negotiators approaching the plane as we speak. there does not seem to be any clarity as to what the demands of the highjacker or highjackers are so far. this is something that we may have to be if we wait a little longer to see, we know that this was a domestic flight. while over cyprus airspace made the demand, the request to land and where it is now. it's also appears to be the case that the airport is now shut. we are waiting to get a little bit more information to that. this really is a breaking news story.
all the information is just emerging. so it's not entirely clear yet. >> we are trying to disstill obviously what we know compared to what we don't know. they are quoting a police spokesman saying one armed highjacker has taken control of an air bus a320 before it was diverted. certainly as well looking at flight radar 24. you can track that plane on that website. although generally that website takes down the video information of flights that are involved in this kind of situation. the flight number was ms181, but also what you are telling us, dovetails with what the local newspapers saying and also with what reuters are saying the highjack took place when the pilot was threatened by one passenger, who appeared, i have to stress the word appeared, to have a suicide bomb belt on their person or in their possession. just looking at the pictures from egyptian television, they have done what they always do
with this kind of situation, they have parked the plane in a secure area away from the terminal, away from the fuel tanks, we can see there quite clearly they have wheeled a set of steps up to the front door left of the a320. so people at the moment are talking to people presumably either to the flight deck on board or to the person or people who have high jacked this plane. i think we have lost coms with our colleague. let's go it zeina khodr who is monitoring the story for us from there. zeina, what else do we know? >> reporter: well, peter, like you have been mentioning, according reports the -- there is one highjacker involved, and he is wearing an explosive belt. he they wanted to detonate his explosive belt. we still do not know who is
responsible, whether this highjacker belongs to a certain group. we still do not know if he has made any demands to the authorities on the ground, but definitely this is going to raise a lot of questions about the security at egypt's airport. this plane took off from alexandria, a domestic slight supposed to have land ed in sigh put. the plane diverted by the armed map on board as we understand. just a few months ago, you remember peter a plane blew up in midair egyptian authorities called it an act of terrorism and really a lot of questions were raised about security at that airport. we do know that the egyptian security forces are at war with an isil affiliated group in sinai and there has been instability in cairo itself. but as far as we know now, we
are getting reports that the women and children are now disembarking from the plane. it seems that the highjacker or highjackers asked the police to step back and to allow the women and children to disembark. it is a developing story: it is a passenger plane now at the airport. >> you have raised the key question at this point in our reporting of this story here, zeina, how does anyone get an explosive device onto a plane in this day and age? if, indeed, that is what has happened. >> reporter: exactly. that is the reports we are getting from egypt there. from the civil aviation authorities, that the highjacker threaten today detonate his explosives, which means he managed to take explosives on board that plane. egypt security forces will have a lot of questions to answer. it's very similar to what
happened before. there are a lot of reports emerging now, details are sketchy. highjacker or highjackers have not made their demands yet. if, in fact, it is related, you have to remember isil did claim responsibility for the downing of the russian plane in and over close to sharma sheik, if this is isil this will be a new tactic by the group. we have seen them carry out attacks in pairs, brussels and now highjacking a plane. >> zeina, for the moment, thank you very much. we'll stay with these live pictures. a am wondering if we can show you the twitter feed as well from the airline. there we are. that he egypt air's tweeter feed. our zeina khodr really there highlighting the issue you. particularly after what happens to that russian plane not so very long ago there were questions, serious questions
then being asked over security at egyptian airports and in effect the egyptian authorities said look, we have upped our game, our planes leaving orlanding through via egyptian airspace will be safe. we'll stay with these picture for as long as they last. i can tell you one twitter angle on this story to us, officials saying they are in negotiations, although those negotiations have not formally started. so there are people talking to people on board the plane. it's an a320 belong to go egypt air. contradictory reports or rather conflicting reports or to how many people were on board that particular flight. although it does look as if whoever is aboard that plane holding people hostage has decided to release women and children. let's talk to the aviate consultant joining us online from cyprus, harry, what are you hearing about this story?
>> okay, as i have following along what you have said up until now is up-to-date. i am on my way to the airport right now to be close to everything going on. as you have said, it's not confirmed yet, there is still another 55 passengers left on board plus eight crew members. we don't have any news on the demands yet, what they actually want has yet to be announced. we'll just be waiting to see what they actually intend to do and it's going to be a developing story during the day. >> what security -- what is security like at the airport there? >> security in the airport is
very tight. it's actually been very tied since november after the paris attacks. and then then since last week after the brussels attack, it's tightened even more. i mean, there is -- you get checked by security even around the boundaries of the airport. it's not just entering the airport. >> given the location of cyprus, given its history as well, of course if you are a european you automatically associate it with being top loaded with a military presence because of the history of the island. because of things like partition. if you are going to highjack a plane, surely logic would dictate that lan ca airport is not necessarily the best place to highjack it to? i was actually surprised when i
heard that it was there. it's insignificant for terrorist group to actually come to cyprus and ask for demands. i don't know if you remember the last highjacking was the 1980 -- 1986 and then we had one in 1977 or '78, zubrus airways flight was highjacked by terrorists and we have the involvement of the egyptian army. you can recall what happens from that time -- >> harry -- >> apart from that we don't have any other history of actually getting highjackers here to
cyprus or whatever demand. >> okay, harry, thanks for your insight i am sure he'll be talking to us over the coming hours here on al jazeera, just to get you right up to date with what's going on there, egypt arizona bus a320 has been highjacked. it was on a domestic flight, internal egyptian flight it's now on the ground as you can see there from that picture that you are looking at right now on your tv. we have one report saying that egyptian media is saying there are 10 americans and eight british people on board. that has not been confirmed. the highjacker is letting egyptian passengers off the plane. that as well has not been confirmed, that's one report we have been mon or on the ground cyprus tv. obviously a live situation there on the ground at lan larnaca. we'll keep you up today as soon as we can. hundreds of suspects have been arrested in pakistan after sunday's suicide bombing in lahore. according to security officials. more than 70 people killed, more
than half children. security in islambad remains tight with thousands of pro at the timers still camped outside the parliament. they are angry about last month's execution of the security guard hanged for killing the governor of punjab who criticized the country's blasphemy laws. let's take you liver to islambad and al jazeera's correspondent kamal hider. it's looking like the government has a big problem here, kamal. >> reporter: the government certainly has a big problem. because where i am standing right now would normally be the famous metro does service that goes through as you can see i am five, 600 meters from main parliament where those protesters are staging a sit in. the commuters, thousands of them who come between -- travel between here are stranded because the metro bus service is not operating and the red zone
you see behind me has been completely sealed off by the paramilitary forceas well as the police forces. however there is one good news, that the number of protesters is not as large as it was on sunday when they first came to islambad, however, 1500 to about 2,000 people are still there and the police also has contingency plans to arrest and disburse the crowds when it becomes necessary. and so at the moment it's containing the crowd rather than doing anything else. >> what's your sense as to how the authorities might choose to handle this? >> reporter: well, if you look at what the prime minister was saying last night. he said this is intolerable. that damage to public and government property was unforgivable. and he said that they cannot be highjacked by a bunch of people who are playing with the sentiments of the people. today we saw several police vans, which are prison vans,
which are parked just about a few hundred meters from the venue, smoke is still billowing out of those trucks which were torched by the protesters. we are told some political leader from the pakistan muslim league which is the ruling party is likely to attend a meeting with these protesters and probably try and find a solution. but one feeling that we are getting is that even the protesters know that they are well covered and they are surrounded. and, of course, the police have been arresting the protesters as they come out of the venue. they have also stopped the food supply to them because they don't want this to be something that goes on for the long haul. >> to what degree is the sentiment summed up by the protest is reflected not just? places like this and islambad but across the country? >> reporter: well, they certainly have some support.
but you have to remember that the mainstream political religious political parties have stayed away from all of this. that includes many groups month don't agree with the tactics that are being used by the protesters. so they don't have an absolute majority and people, of course, are angered because these people have caused damage to government property. something which is unacceptable and they are now blocking the main transit point which is useful for government officials. most of them would be working in the offices back there, so they cannot go to their offices and people are annoyed because islambad is at a standstill when it comes to the red zone and you have hundreds of thousands of security forces personnel now waiting to see that they can contain this and not allow more people to come in to the venue. >> kamal, thanks very much. the syrian army is continuing its offensive against
isil after recapturing the ancient city of palmyra on sunday. fighting is reportedly taking place around isil-held towns in the north eats and southwest of the city. the army says it will use palmyra has a launch pad to expand operations against ice and cut its supply routes. it retook the city after days of fighting backed by russian air strikes. okay, let's take you back now live to the pictures coming to us from larnaca airport after the highjacking of an egypt air bus a321 flight number ms181. >> reporter: there are as ever, in this kind of situation, slightly conflicting reports to what's going on there inside that aircraft. women and children, one report says, were allowed to go free. we haven't seen any pictures of that. we haven't seen any buses pulling up to the side of the aircraft. we haven't see any vehicles making their way along the airport perimeter roads to get
to there. within of our contractors earlier harry was telling us he's a local aviation expert slash reporter he was telling thousands security there is exceptionally tight because of the history of the island of cyprus. one other report is saying that egyptians men, well, and children all being allowed to leave. we cannot confirm that. there are a number of americans and brits on board as well. if you are just joining us here on al jazeera, let's just get you right up-to-date with what we know has happened so far. and there has been a drip, drip, drip of information. it was an internal flight, it was highjacked, we understand that there was at least one person on board who was organizing, running that highjack effort and there is also one other unconfirmed report saying that that person had some sort of explosive device on board. the news being confirmed by the egyptian civil aviation authorities saying their plane
was highjacked while flying from alex own tree a to cairo. it was a statement from the egyptian aviation saying 55 passengers on board, there is another report saying there are 80 odd people on board. seven crew. and there was this drip, drip of information, these cypriot foreign minister and the secretary general saying the highjacker had indicated intention to free a certain number of passengers. and also the foreign ministry also telling french television, i understand, that the highjacker is yet to make demands. we'll stay with these pictures and go back to the free-lance journalist of the just get us right up to date. what's the very latest information that you have from where you are? >> reporter: well, what we are hearing from cyprus is that there are negotiations underway at the moment with a possible highjacker or highjackers. it's still not entirely clear what we are looking at more
people on the plane or not. we also know that a number of the passengers have been allowed to disembark for the time being we are hearing that it's at least 20. what we know is that there are at least 50 passengers on the plane. what remains really unclear is what it is that the highjacker or highjackers are asking for. authorities are saying that this is quite strange because usually the demands are made known from the very beginning. so there ar they are saying we e looking at a usual case. this is an unusual case of eye highjacking because we really don't know what this is yet all about. obviously there is a lot of police around the airport. the aircraft is now at a secure area. away from the rest of the planes, away from any areas where if anything goes horribly wrong, other people could be affected. we know that the airport is now
shut for precautionary reasons. and really now the attention is very much focused on trying to understand what this is about, what the demands are. but it's something that we may have to wait a bit longer to find out. >> is anyone on your henned speculating as to the possible either identity, political affiliation or provenance of the highjacker or highjackers? >> reporter: for the time being, i think there is a lot of caution also because of all of the latest incidents that we have had because of all the stories out of brussels, recently. i think there are a lot of caution before anyone really even begins to speculate on what this could be all about. >> we are also just hearing that all of the passengers have been released, apart from five foreigners. and the -- we think seven crew
members. so putting together those figures that means there are still 12 people on board. although the airline didn't confirm seven crew members. so you would have two on the flight deck, three or four cabin crew working up front. two or three cabin crew working down the back. so if they have kept five foreigners on board i think it's a fair assumption that the people who are conducting the highjack, they are assuming here that those five people have some valor worth when it comes to the negotiation process. >> reporter: yeah, i think this is a very fair assumption. and from my understanding, until a few minutes ago, it was women and children that were let off the plane first. i believe were the -- with the numbers that you are giving it means more people have been allowed to disembark since. it would make sense at this point for the highjackers, the
highjackers to keep possibly some people on board just as a negotiate card. but who these people are, who are still on the plane, we don't yet know. >> just to back up just a little bit, the idea of highjacking a plane, we were talking about a contributor a little earlier here on al jazeera, you know, they have had highjackings in larnaca before. we have seen hostage situations on airplanes before. but it does feel as a tactic that it hasn't been used particularly a lot over the last decade or so. it feels like something that used to happen in the 1980s, in the 1990s. and if this is a new tactic by somebody or an organization that currently has an ax to grind that, could be a worrying development for the security services. >> reporter: very worrying development as you say. and i think that because we are also looking at this particular region, and countries like cyprus, countries like egypt,
these are also countries that their economy is also very much dependent on tourism. if we start looking at highjackings of planes, i think this is another dimension we can add to that. people start getting more and more concerned about such possible incidents happening when they deciding to on a holiday or, you know, take a trip abroad. we could be looking at a big issue there for the tourism industry as well. >> when you fly around that region, you are based in athens, when you fly around that renal and unyou go through airport security and one does the interview sometimes that you go through passport control, do you feel safe enough when you are going through that process? >> reporter: i think so. there are normally sufficient security. but as you know this is the kind
of thing that seems to be able to happen at most places around the world at the moment. i wouldn't say this particular region is more problematic than any other, but it does seem to be the case that maybe if we do see a rise in highjackings, as we have said before, or more problems in terms of airport are, you know, links to terrorism or violence there, it might be an issue that needs to be readdressed. and the security may have to be heightened. >> okay, elinda, do stay with us because we are getting some information here as well. the authorities have named the highjacker. and we will bring that to you just as soon as we can. and we'll carry on talking to you elinda. just give us the back story here to not the history of this kind of incident either through the prism of, you know, greek air
traffic control or cyprian you want air traffic control. but because that part of the world is closer to the middle east, is there a sense that this kind of thing could happen more frequently than it would perhaps happen at say a european airport or even an american airport? >> reporter: well, it's something that maybe we have more reasons to assume that it could happen in this region or closer to the middle east basically as you said. but i think until we know what the demands are in this case and until we know a little bit more about the situation on the ground and as we have had such incidents, we have had highjack goehighjackings before, but notr a long time now, i think we need to be very calm and cautious before we can really speculate that this is something that could become an increasing trend
and something to worry about, or whether this may just be an irons lateisolated incident. >> he -- linda thank you very much. if you are just joining us here on al jazeera we are bringing you open-ended rolling coverage of what's happening at larnaca airport on cyprus, you can see these are live pictures now in fact passengers being allowed to disembark. we are being told as well that we have a name for the highjacker on board that person is called eastbound himself. amaha. according to egyptian stayed media. people be taken to waiting bus buses. they will be checked as well. then he i expect the authorities will want to find out as much information as they can about ibrahim. this was an internal december stick flight in egypt.
it started bubbling up on social media about 90 minutes ago that this was happening. they had been divert today the airport at larnaca after the pilot was told to divert the flight because somebody managed to get their way in to the flight deck. of course that's another question that the egyptian authorities have to answer because still these days, after the events of 9/11, you simply cannot get onto the cockpit and join the pilots on a plane. those doors were strengthened in the off math of 9/11 because of what happened on sent the 11th when so many people lost their lives. let's talk now to ivan joining us on the line. ivan, where are you? what are you seeing and what are you hearing? and what's your take on this events as it continues to