I was laughing in face of terrorism says grinning Leeds ‘safety expert’ in hijack photo

Video grab taken from BBC News of Ben Innes who had a picture taken with the alleged hijacker of an Egyptair jet
Video grab taken from BBC News of Ben Innes who had a picture taken with the alleged hijacker of an Egyptair jet
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The LEEDS hostage photographed with the alleged Egyptian plane hijacker wearing a fake suicide vest said he posed for the snap to laugh in the face of terrorism.

Ben Innes, a 26-year-old health and safety auditor, was widely criticised after being pictured grinning next to Seif Eddin Mustafa, who claimed to have smuggled a bomb belt on board, forcing the plane to redirect to Cyprus.

Ben Innes leaves his parents home in North Yorkshire after returning to the UK. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Ben Innes leaves his parents home in North Yorkshire after returning to the UK. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

In an interview with BBC News, Mr Innes defended the controversial picture and said he decided to get up close to the hostage taker to figure out if the bomb was real or fake.

And he said if the worst came to the worst his family would know he died as he lived “making the best out of every situation I am in”.

He said: “I wanted to interact with this guy. I wanted him to understand I wasn’t a threat and if I needed to be in his space at a later time he would know, it would have already happened and he would be able to feel comfortable around me rather than seeing me approach him for the first time as the situation got tense maybe later on. You don’t know what is going to happen.

“I also wanted to get a closer look at his bomb. I’ve got no expertise in that field, but there might have been a tell-tale sign it was fake or real and I wanted to assure myself one way or another.

Seif Eldin Mustafa (left, wearing a 'suicide bomber' vest now revealed to be fake) poses with Ben Innes, of Oakwood, Leeds.

Seif Eldin Mustafa (left, wearing a 'suicide bomber' vest now revealed to be fake) poses with Ben Innes, of Oakwood, Leeds.

“I also just thought if the worst comes to the worst I want my family and friends to know I died how I lived, having as much fun as I can and making the best out of every situation I am in. I think that picture of me is suitable for my epitaph - it is fine by me.

“As well with terrorism, the whole idea is to instil fear and so by simply being unafraid you are defeating the terrorist agenda totally, and so that was in the forefront of my mind.”

Mr Innes said he did not have second thoughts as he got closer to Mustafa, and was determined to take the picture.

“This photo, this opportunity - I’m taking it. I’m working towards that. I was very calm as I approached him”, he said.

EgyptAir plane hijacking suspect Seif Eddin Mustafa, second left, is escorted by Cyprus police officers as he leaves court

EgyptAir plane hijacking suspect Seif Eddin Mustafa, second left, is escorted by Cyprus police officers as he leaves court

“I wanted him to understand that I was approachable.”

Mr Innes said he wanted Mustafa to “see me as a human, not just an expendable”.

He was one of 72 passengers and crew taken hostage soon after their EgyptAir flight took off from Alexandria on Tuesday.

The snap, in which the hijacker can be seen wearing a khaki-coloured fabric belt with a series of pouches wired together, went viral after it was posted on social media.

CCTV footage showing Seif Eldin Mustafa passing through security at Alexandria  before boarding EgyptAir  MS181.

CCTV footage showing Seif Eldin Mustafa passing through security at Alexandria before boarding EgyptAir MS181.

The Cypriot court ordered Mustafa to be detained for eight days as he faces charges including hijacking, illegal possession of explosives, kidnapping and threats to commit violence.

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