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Hijacked aircraft: Co-pilot hijacks Ethiopian plane; passengers unaware

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Passengers on a hijacked aircraft early Monday morning, traveling from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on their way to Rome were unaware their plane had been taken over. The Boeing 767-300 made an unscheduled landing in Switzerland, reports the Christian Science Monitor on Monday, Feb. 17, but those on board thought the stop was to refuel. No one was injured during the flight or upon landing, and the Ethiopian airline sent out a distress signal early in the flight.

The co-pilot of the plane, who wanted to seek asylum in the Swiss city of Geneva, turned himself in to Swiss police and was taken into custody. His name has not yet been released, nor has the reason for his seeking asylum. All that is known is that the 30-year-old co-pilot took control of the plane when the pilot left the cockpit.

“The pilot went to the toilet and he (the co-pilot) locked himself in the cockpit,” reported a spokesperson for the Geneva airport. “(He) wanted asylum in Switzerland.” The plane was under the suspect’s control for the rest of the flight.

After landing in Geneva, the hijacker climbed down from the cockpit using a rope, and then turned himself in to the nearby police, announcing, said a representative of the police, he “announced that he was himself the hijacker.”

Ethiopian Airlines, which is government-owned, has a sketchy record of human rights tolerance. But the Swiss penalty for taking hostages – even if the hostages were unaware – is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

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