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Africa

Ethiopian plane diverted to Geneva hijacked by co-pilot

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-17

An Ethiopian Airlines flight bound for Rome was hijacked by the plane’s co-pilot and forced to land at Geneva International Airport on Monday, Swiss authorities have confirmed.

The unnamed pilot, an Ethiopian man born in 1983, took control of the plane while the pilot went to the bathroom, locking himself in the cockpit, Geneva airport chief executive Robert Deillon told reporters.

He then diverted the plane to Geneva where he planned to seek asylum, said Deillon.

The man “wanted asylum in Switzerland,” he said. “That's the motivation of the hijacking.”
After landing at Geneva, the co-pilot climbed down from the cockpit window on a rope and gave himself up to police, said police spokesman Pierre Grangean.

He was unarmed and there was no risk at any time to crew or passengers, said Grangean. The co-pilot is now being questioned by police.

Passengers were seen being escorted one by one, their hands over their heads, from the taxied plane to waiting vehicles.

Plane had 193 passengers on board

State-run Ethiopian television said there had been 193 passengers on board the Boeing aircraft, including 140 Italian nationals.

In an apparent recording of a radio communication between the aircraft and air traffic control posted on social media site Twitter, a demand for asylum can clearly be heard.

However, the recording has not been independently verified as authentic.

"We need asylum or assurance we will not be transferred to the Ethiopian government," the voice in the recording said, posted by Twitter user @MatthewKeysLive.

Geneva police spokesman Jean-Philippe Brandt said the plane made the unscheduled landing in the Swiss city at 6am Monday (0500 GMT).

A flight tracking app for mobile devices showed flight ET702 circling over the Swiss city several times before landing.

Departures from the airport have resumed and Geneva airport said the arrivals would also resume at 8.45am (0745 GMT).

Ethiopia said Monday it was investigating who hijacked the flight.

"Who was behind this hijacking and who this guy is is not yet known," Ethiopia's Information Minister Redwan Hussein told AFP.

"Our ambassador there (in Geneva) is trying to search information from our passengers," he said.
 

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP and AFP)

Date created : 2014-02-17

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