An Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot locked his colleague out of the cockpit, hijacked a Rome-bound plane and landed Monday in Geneva, all in an attempt to seek asylum in Switzerland, officials said.
The Boeing 767-300 plane with 202 passengers and crew had taken off from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa and landed in the Swiss city about 6 a.m. (0500 GMT). Officials said no one on the flight was injured and the hijacker was taken into custody after surrendering to police.
It wasn’t immediately clear why the co-pilot, an Ethiopian man born in 1983 whose name wasn’t released, wanted asylum. It also was unclear why he chose Switzerland which, unlike Italy, isn’t a member of the 28-nation European Union and where voters recently demanded curbs on immigration.
Ethiopian Airlines is owned by Ethiopia’s government, however, which has faced persistent criticism over its rights record and its alleged intolerance of political dissent.
The plane first sent a distress message while flying over Sudan’s airspace on its way to Rome, Ethiopia’s communications minister said.
“From Sudan all the way to Switzerland, the co-pilot took control of the plane,” said the minister, Redwan Hussein. He didn’t elaborate but added that the pilot was Italian.
Passengers on the plane were unaware at the time that it had been hijacked, officials said. Even local authorities at first thought the Ethiopian plane just wanted to land in Geneva for an emergency refueling before realizing it was hijacked, Geneva police spokesman Eric Grandjean said.
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Stephen "TheeBlackSocialite" Hale