Monday, February 17, 2014

Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot to be charged after hijacking; Swiss asylum chance 'not very high'

(Feb 16, 2014, (GENEVA))--Locking the pilot out of the cockpit, an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked a plane bound for Italy on Monday and diverted it to Geneva, where he asked for asylum, officials said. One passenger said the hijacker threatened to crash the plane if the pilot didn't stop pounding on the locked door.

Another said he was terrified "for hours" as the plane careened across the sky. The Boeing 767-300 took off from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on an overnight flight to Milan and then Rome, but an Ethiopian official said it sent a distress message over Sudan that it had been hijacked. Once the plane was over Europe, two Italian fighter jets and later French jets were scrambled to accompany it.

The plane landed in Geneva at about 6 a.m. Officials said no one on the flight was injured and the hijacker was taken into custody after surrendering to Swiss police. "The pilot went to the toilet and he (the co-pilot) locked himself in the cockpit," Geneva airport chief executive Robert Deillon told reporters. "(He) wanted asylum in Switzerland."

Geneva police said the co-pilot, a 31-year-old Ethiopian man, claimed he felt threatened at home. It wasn't immediately clear why he chose Switzerland over Italy. Swiss voters recently demanded curbs on immigration, and Italy has a reputation among many Africans as not being hospitable to asylum seekers. Read more from, Pennsylvania »

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