The man who hijacked an Ethiopian Airlines flight and diverted it from Rome to Geneva was the aeroplane’s co-pilot, it has been revealed.
A spokesman for Geneva airport said the co-pilot, on Flight ET-702 from Addis Ababa to Rome, seized his chance while the pilot went to the bathroom.
“He said he felt threatened in his country and wants to seek asylum in Switzerland,” airport spokesman Bernard Staempfli 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”.
“At 6.02am, the plane landed safely,” Mr Staempfli said, adding the co-pilot left the plane by scaling down a rope he had thrown out of the window.
“He didn’t have a weapon with him,” he said, noting the hijacker would go before a judge on Monday and could be charged with hostage taking and up to 20 years in prison.
The airport was briefly closed while police took control of the situation.
There were no immediate reports of injuries and Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement in Addis Ababa that “the passengers are safe and sound”.
Who was behind this hijacking and who this guy is is not yet known
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 ATS news agency, the flight was carrying some 200 people and was hijacked as it flew over Sudan.
Earlier there was confusion about the incident.
“Who was behind this hijacking and who this guy is is not yet known,” Ethiopia’s Information Minister Redwan Hussein said.
“Our ambassador there (in Geneva) is trying to search information from our passengers,” he said.
— Evan Davis (@EvanD) February 17, 2014
All flights to and from Geneva airport early Monday had either been diverted or cancelled, but the airport was gradually reopening.