Ethiopian hijack drama: 'Pilot is medically sane'

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Ethiopia's government on Monday named the co-pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines flight who hijacked his aircraft, describing him as "medically sane".

Information Minister Redwan Hussein named the hijacker as Haile Medehin Abera Tagegn, and said he had been working with the national carrier for five years.

Police stand on the stairs after passengers were evacuated from a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines Plane on the airport in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014.The  aircraft traveling from Addis Abeda, Ethiopia, to Rome, Italy, has landed at Geneva's international airport early Monday morning. Swiss authorities have arrested the co-pilot.  (AP)

"So far it is known that he was medically sane, until otherwise proven through the investigation which is going on right now," the minister told reporters.

"He has been serving for the airline for the last five years," he added.

Police evacuate passengers on February 17, 2014 from the Ethiopian Airlines flight en route to Rome, which was hijacked and forced to land in Geneva, where the hijacker has been arrested, police said. There were no immediate reports of injuries and in a statement in Addis Ababa Ethiopian Airlines said "the passengers are safe and sound." The hijacker was the co-pilot, according to the Geneva airport where the plane was forced to land. AFP

Earlier story:

A hijacked Ethiopian plane that landed at Geneva airport early on Monday was diverted from Rome by the co-pilot, who sought asylum due to fear of persecution in Ethiopia, police spokesman Pierre Grangean told a news conference.

Police evacuate passengers on February 17, 2014 from the Ethiopian Airlines flight en route to Rome, which was on hijacked and forced to land in Geneva, where the hijacker has been arrested, police said. There were no immediate reports of injuries and in a statement in Addis Ababa Ethiopian Airlines said "the passengers are safe and sound."  According to the ATS news agency, the flight was carrying some 200 people and was hijacked as it flew over Sudan, but the reason for the hijacking was not immediately clear. AFP

The unnamed co-pilot, an Ethiopian born in 1983, locked the cockpit door when the pilot went to the toilet. He then asked to refuel at Geneva, landed the plane, climbed down from the cockpit window on a rope, and gave himself up to police.

Police officers walk back to their vehicles after helping passengers disembark from the hijacked Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 702 at Cointrin Airport in Geneva February 17, 2014. Swiss authorities detained the hijacker of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that was forced to land at Geneva's international airport on Monday and police said all passengers were unhurt. Passengers left the plane parked near the end of the runway and were checked by police as they held their hands on their necks, before boarding a bus, a Reuters witness said. REUTERS

He was unarmed and there was no risk at any time to crew or passengers, Grangean said. The co-pilot is being questioned by police.

Bertrand Staempfli, the airport spokesman, told reporters: "He said he felt threatened in his country and wants to seek asylum in Switzerland."

Passengers left the plane parked near the end of the runway and were checked by police as they held their hands on their heads, before boarding a bus, a Reuters witness said.

Swiss authorities detained the hijacker of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that was forced to land at Geneva's international airport on Monday, airport police said, adding that passengers and crew were safe.

The situation was "under control", police said after flight ET 702 had been diverted from its original destination of Rome. The airline earlier said the flight from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa had been "forced to proceed" to Geneva.

An Ethiopian government spokesman, Redwan Hussein, told Reuters the flight had made a scheduled stop in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, where he said the hijacker or hijackers might have boarded the flight.


(AFP)

"We don't know where they are from or how many they are but it looks like the hijacker or hijackers boarded the flight in Khartoum," Redwan told Reuters shortly before police announced they had detained the assailant.

In an apparent recording of a radio communication between the aircraft and air traffic control posted on the social media site Twitter, a demand for asylum can clearly be heard.

Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the recording and it was not immediately clear whether it was a hijacker or pilot speaking from the plane.

"We need asylum or assurance we will not be transferred to the Ethiopian government," the voice in the recording said, posted by Twitter user @MatthewKeysLive.

A flight tracking app for mobile devices showed the flight circling over the Swiss city several times before landing.   

Click to read... Etihad Airways flight diverted to Milan in wake of Geneva Airport closure

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