Ethiopian plane hijacker 'was co-pilot' - PICTURES

There were no immediate reports of injuries. AFP PHOTO / Richard Juilliart

What you need to know:

  • According to the Tribune de Geneve newspaper, the flight was hijacked as it flew over Sudan, but the reason for the hijacking was not immediately clear.

GENEVA, Monday

The man who hijacked an Ethiopian Airlines flight en route from Addis Ababa to Rome on Monday was the co-pilot, according to a Geneva airport spokesman.

The co-pilot said he had seized his chance when the pilot went to the bathroom, Bertrand Staempfli, the spokesman told reporters. "He said he felt threatened in his country and wants to seek asylum in Switzerland," he said.

The man, born in 1983 and an Ethiopian citizen, had contacted Geneva Airport and said "he needed to land to fill the tank. After that he announced the hijacking," Staempfli said.

"At 6:02 am, the plane landed safely," he said, adding that the co-pilot had left the plane by scaling down a rope he had thrown out of the cockpit window.

"He didn't have a weapon with him," he said, adding that the hijacker would go before a judge Monday.

HOSTAGE TAKING

Technically, he can be charged with "hostage-taking," and could face up to 20 years in prison, Staempfli said. The Ethiopian Airlines flight en route to Rome was hijacked on Monday morning and forced to land in Geneva.

Flight ET-702 from Addis Ababa to Rome "was hijacked... it landed in Geneva at 6:00 am (0500 GMT)," Geneva police spokesman Christophe Fortis told AFP.

There were no immediate reports of injuries and Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement in Addis Ababa that "the passengers are safe and sound".

The plane was parked at a far end of a runway crowded with police and other emergency vehicles, with passengers filing out with their arms up in the air before getting onto waiting buses, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

According to the Tribune de Geneve newspaper, the flight was hijacked as it flew over Sudan, but the reason for the hijacking was not immediately clear.

The Boeing 767 left Addis Ababa at 00:30 am (2130 GMT Sunday) and was due to land in the Italian capital at 4:40 am.

According to the Geneva airport website, all flights to and from the airport early Monday had either been diverted or cancelled.

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