BREAKING: Co-Pilot Of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET-702 Who Hijacked And Diverted Plane To Geneva Arrested, Seeks Asylum; Passengers And Crew Evacuated Safely

on February 17 2014 12:22 AM
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    Passengers climb down an airplane ladder with their hands on their heads as police officers stand around hijacked Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 702 at Cointrin airport in Geneva on Feb. 17, 2014. Reuters/Denis Balibouse
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    A plane takes off as police officers stand around hijacked Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 702 at Cointrin airport in Geneva on Feb. 17, 2014. Reuters/Denis Balibouse
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    A passenger (4th L) climbs down an airplane ladder with his hands on his head as police officers stand around hijacked Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 702 at Cointrin airport in Geneva on Feb. 17, 2014. Reuters/Denis Balibouse
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Update as of 5:35 a.m.: The co-pilot of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET-702 who was arrested for hijacking the flight and diverting the Rome-bound wide-body jet to Geneva International Airport has sought asylum in Switzerland, reports said, citing Geneva police.

“His act was motivated by the fact that he says he felt threatened in Ethiopia and wanted to ask for asylum in Switzerland,” Eric Grandjean, a spokesman for the Geneva police, said according to Bloomberg. The pilot, who said he acted alone was reportedly unarmed and did not pose a threat to passengers and crew on board the plane that originated in Addis Ababa. 

Many of the aircraft's passengers were reportedly unaware of the drama unfolding in the cockpit. Ethiopian Airlines had said earlier that they'd be flown to their original destinations. Geneva airport, which had shut down following the hijacked plane's arrival, reopened at 8:45 a.m. local time (2:45 a.m. EST), Bloomberg reported.

Update as of 3:44 a.m.: The co-pilot of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET-702 was arrested for hijacking the flight, which was on its way from Addis Ababa to Rome, on Monday, CNN reported. The 30-year-old Ethiopian pilot reportedly took control of the plane when its captain went to the rest room, the report added, citing Swiss police spokesman Jean-Philippe Brandt.

The co-pilot then locked himself in the cockpit and diverted the plane to Geneva International Airport, and before landing at the airport, asked for asylum. Upon landing, he escaped through the cockpit window using a rope before turning himself over to police, the report said. All the passengers and crew of the Boeing 767-300 were evacuated unharmed.

However, the incident led to the closure of the airport and the diversion of several planes. The airport was reopened later on Monday, CNN reported.

Update as of 3:18 a.m.: Media reports citing Swiss officials said Monday that passengers of the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET-702 were safely evacuated from the hijacked airliner. 

Redwan Hussein, Ethiopia’s minister of information, reportedly told media that there was no information yet on the identity of the hijacker or hijackers, or their intentions. However, earlier reports citing radio communication between air-traffic control and someone on the aircraft had stated that there had been a demand for asylum. It was not immediately clear if the communication involved the plane's pilot or a hijacker. A report from AirlineReporter, citing news from an airport press conference, said that the plane's first officer may have been responsible for the hijacking.

According to a Reuters report, Hussein said the plane made a scheduled stop in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, and speculated that the hijacker or hijackers may have boarded the flight at the time. However, a report from the New York Times, which also cited Hussein, reported that the plane had been scheduled to make a stop at Khartoum but did not do so after the flight was ordered to proceed to Geneva.

The hijacking incident resulted in the closure of the Geneva airport earlier in the day. 

Update as of 1:48 a.m.: CNN, in a tweet, reported that the hijacking of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET-702, from Addis Ababa to Rome, has ended at Geneva airport with the arrest of a hijacker. BBC, also in a tweet citing Swiss police, reported that one hijacker of the aircraft had been arrested, no passengers were injured, and that the situation was "under control."

Update as of 1:38 a.m.: Reports from AirlineReporter and Twitter posts state that Swiss police are in negotiations with the hijackers while speculation on Twitter includes one pilot asking for asylum while another claims a hijacker has been arrested.

A report from Associated Press, citing Geneva police spokesman Jean-Philippe Brandt, confirmed that the plane made an unscheduled landing in the Swiss city at 6 a.m. local time Monday. The report also quoted Geneva airport spokesman Bertrand Staempfli as saying that the airport is temporarily closed and more details would be released at 9 a.m.

Update as of 1:07 a.m.: Ethiopian Airlines issued a press release stating: "Ethiopian Airlines flight ET-702 on scheduled service departing from Addis Ababa on 17 February 2014 at 00:30 (local time) scheduled to arrive in Rome at 04:40 (local time) was forced to proceed to Geneva Airport. Accordingly, the flight has landed safely at Geneva Airport. All passengers and crew are safe at Geneva Airport. Ethiopian Airlines is making immediate arrangements to fly its esteemed customers on-board the flight to their intended destinations."

Update as of 12:55 a.m.: Flights, including United Airlines' flight from Newark to Geneva, and Etihad Airways' flight from Abu Dhabi to Geneva, have been diverted, AirlineReporter said, citing FlightRadar 24, a flight-tracking website. 

Update as of 12:19 a.m.: Geneva International Airport has been reportedly closed down after Ethiopian Airlines Flight 702, which was confirmed to have been hijacked, landed at GVA. AirlineReporter's Twitter feed reported earlier, citing unconfirmed reports that the aircraft's pilots were escaping from the plane's windows. 

 

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 702, which sent a transponder code indicating a hijacking while on its way from Addis Ababa to Rome, has landed in Geneva, AirlineReporter.com reported Sunday night.

The Boeing 767-300 squawked 7500 -- a transponder code that is supposed to indicate a hijacking -- at 8 p.m. EST when it was flying over Sudan, the report said, adding that it had landed in Geneva where emergency crews were standing by.

In an earlier update, AirlineReporter.com reported that the plane was circling over Geneva in the company of a military escort, and that what sounded like a hostage negotiator had been heard on the radio, and that the plane's pilots were heard on the radio as stating they would be leaving the aircraft through the flight deck window.

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