British hostage who posed grinning with EgyptAir hijacker wanted to see if explosives belt was real

The image of Ben Innes (right), grinning next to his captor Seif Eldin Mustafa during the five-hour standoff, has gone viral online.
The image of Ben Innes (right), grinning next to his captor Seif Eldin Mustafa during the five-hour standoff, has gone viral online.PHOTO: BEN INNES

A British man who posed for a picture with the hijacker of EgyptAir flight MS181 said he wanted to get a closer look to determine whether the explosives belt on the hijacker was real.

The image of Ben Innes, grinning next to his captor Seif Eldin Mustafa during the five-hour standoff on Tuesday (March 29), has gone viral online. Some described the Briton as the latest victim of "narcissistic" social media culture.

Mr Innes, a 26-year-old health and safety auditor based in Aberdeen, told the Sun newspaper: "I figured if his bomb was real I'd nothing lose anyway, so (I) took a chance to get a closer look at it."

"I also thought it would be a way to see whether his device was real."

 
 

The hijacker, who forced the plane to land in Cyprus, was later arrested and the explosives belt was found to be fake.

Mr Innes said the photo, which was taken by a member of the cabin crew, was the "best selfie ever". Netizens have pointed out that it was technically not a selfie, given the shot was taken by a third party.

The picture has sparked a mix of reactions ranging from amusement to condemnation.

Cambridge University psychology lecturer Dr Terry Apter told the BBC that Mr Innes' actions might have been the result of "pure narcissism".

Dr Apter said: "We've always wanted to mark our presence and participation in historical events - what is new is the opportunity social media offers in immediately broadcasting this to the world.

"This opportunity can make us really, really stupid."

The EgyptAir plane was carrying 62 people on board, including 26 foreigners, on a domestic flight from Alexandria to Cairo.

Most of those on board were freed shortly after the plane landed at Larnaca, Cyprus, but the hijacker held seven people hostage before the incident came to a peaceful conclusion.

It is believed that Mr Innes was one of the last three people to be released. Ironically, Mr Innes' mother Pauline had texted him during the drama to tell him to stay out of harm's way.

He said: “My mum was obviously frantic with worry and kept telling me not to do anything to draw attention to myself. I didn’t know how to tell her I’d already done a selfie with the hijacker.”

In keeping with social media norms, Mr Innes has become the subject of memes.


Innes (right) next to former German dictator Adolf Hitler. PHOTO: TWITTER/MOCKEREE


Innes alongside Islamic militants. PHOTO: TWITTER/MOCKEREE