Newspaper article International New York Times

Co-Pilot Hijacks Ethiopian Jet to Geneva

Newspaper article International New York Times

Co-Pilot Hijacks Ethiopian Jet to Geneva

Article excerpt

All 202 passengers and crew aboard the Ethiopian Airlines flight were released safely on Monday, and the hijacker surrendered after saying he needed asylum because he was in danger in Ethiopia.

The co-pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet en route to Rome from Ethiopia seized control of the plane on Monday and flew it to Geneva, where he asked for asylum, a spokesman for the Geneva police said.

The plane, a Boeing 767-300, landed safely, and none of the 202 passengers and crew members on Flight ET-702, which originated in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, were injured, the police spokesman, Eric Grandjean, said. "Everybody was safe from beginning to end -- no problem," he added. Other officials said passengers were unaware of the hijacking until the plane landed in Switzerland.

The plane was in Italian airspace when the co-pilot, an Ethiopian citizen who was not immediately identified, took the controls after the pilot left the cockpit to use the restroom. After locking the cockpit door, he initially told Italian air controllers that he needed fuel, but then activated a transponder to signal that the plane was being hijacked, Mr. Grandjean said. Italian fighter jets were scrambled, and they escorted the aircraft out of Italian airspace.

The plane landed in Geneva at 6:02 a.m. and continued to a taxiway, where the co-pilot turned off the engines, opened the cockpit window and lowered himself to the tarmac with a rope, officials said. He then ran toward security officers and identified himself as the hijacker, declared that he was in danger in Ethiopia and requested asylum, the officials added. The airport was closed briefly.

A Geneva prosecutor, Olivier Jornot, said the co-pilot would be charged with taking hostages, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison, The Associated Press reported. …

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