Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacks plane to seek Geneva asylum

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The co-pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines plane flying from Addis Ababa to Rome has been arrested after hijacking the aircraft and flying it to Switzerland.

The hijacker, identified by officials as Hailemedehin Abera Tagegn, waited for the pilot to go to the toilet before locking himself in the cockpit.

He was unarmed and, after landing at Geneva airport, said he was requesting asylum in Switzerland.

The airline said all 202 passengers and crew were safe.

Geneva airport was closed for a time but has since reopened

Flight 702 was scheduled to leave the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, at 00:30 local time (21:30 GMT) and arrive in Rome at 04:40 local time.

But at some point during the flight, the co-pilot locked his colleague out of the cockpit and took over the plane.

He radioed Geneva to request permission for an emergency refuelling, before setting off an alarm indicating that the plane had been hijacked.

Passengers have said he threatened to crash the plane.

Two Italian fighter jets and then French jets were scrambled to escort the plane as it crossed Europe.

The Boeing 767-300 eventually made its unscheduled landing at 06:00 local time.

“He parked the plane on the taxiway, he cut the engines then opened the cockpit window, threw out a rope and used it to descend to the tarmac,” said Swiss police spokesman Eric Grandjean.

“He ran towards the police and immediately identified himself as the co-pilot and hijacker.”

Passengers were able to leave the plane about an hour later. They were all searched twice and questioned by police in case any were accomplices before being allowed to finish their journeys

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