Ethiopian Airlines flight hijacked by co-pilot seeking asylum in Switzerland


Feb. 17, 2014

Copilot says “we need an assurance that we will get an asylum or we will not be returned back to the Ethiopian government in a conversation with Swiss airline controllers”.

Swiss authorities say the hijacker of an Ethiopian Airlines flight forced to land at Geneva’s international airport was the plane’s co-pilot.

The airline says flight ET-702 from Addis Ababa to Rome was “forced to proceed” to Geneva, where it landed early on Monday (local time).

Airport spokesman Bertrand Staempfli told reporters the co-pilot took control of the plane when the pilot went to the toilet.

“He said he felt threatened in his country and wants to seek asylum in Switzerland,” he said.

After the plane landed the co-pilot left through the window on a rope and surrendered to police.

Police say the man was not armed, and there was no risk to crew or passengers at any time.

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

The brief drama caused the closure of the airport and cancellation of some short-haul flights. Some incoming flights were diverted to other airports.

Hundreds of passengers booked on disrupted flights scrambled to change their tickets.

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

Ethiopian nationals and the Horn of Africa country’s flag carrier have been involved in several hijackings in the past.

In 1993, an Ethiopian used a gun hidden in his hat to hijack a German passenger jet bound for New York. He was later sentenced to 20 years in a US prison.

Two years later, police in Greece overpowered an Ethiopian hijacker who held a knife to the throat of an Olympic Airways stewardess and demanded political asylum.

At least 50 people were killed when a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet crashed in the Indian Ocean in 1996.

In 2001, a dozen Ethiopian students hijacked a plane carrying around 60 people and flew to Sudan.