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Ethiopian co-pilot in custody after hijacking

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The co-pilot of an Ethiopian jetliner flying to Italy hijacked his own plane full of passengers and later diverted it to Geneva to seek asylum, Ethiopia’s head of communications said Monday during a press conference.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 702 landed safely at the Swiss airport at 6:00 a.m. local time with 202 passengers on board the Boeing 767-300, police confirmed. The airline said that all passengers and crew were safe in a news release adding “The cause of the diversion of the flight is under investigation.”

“It is still not clear what led the co-pilot to hijack the plane,” Ethiopia’s head of communications Redwan Hussien said. “As far as the airline is concerned the co-pilot was mentally stable,” he added.

There were 140 Italians, 10 Ethiopians, 11 Americans and five Nigerians on the hijacked flight.

The co-pilot was identified as 31-year-old Hailemedhin Abera Tegeg by state media. He allegedly hijacked the plane while the captain, identified only as an Italian, went to the washroom as it neared Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, for a scheduled stop, Hussien said.

“There is no logical explanation that one would risk a lengthy jail term because one felt uncomfortable in his own country,” he added when queried on whether the co-pilot felt threatened in his own country.

Investigations of the incident have been launched in Switzerland and Rome.

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