Ethiopian Airlines hijack: Co-pilot took control of plane (update)

Ethiopian born in 1983 asked to refuel at Geneva, landed, climbed down from cockpit window on rope, and gave himself up to police

Published Monday, February 17, 2014

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 is 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 necks, 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.

 

17 February 2014 (BBC)

Analysis: Such high-profile incidents of political asylum-seeking are uncommon in Ethiopia.

But dozens of members of a rebel group, the ONLF, have sought asylum in the West and neighbouring countries over the past decade, fleeing a military counter-insurgency campaign in the Ogaden region bordering Somalia.

Human Rights Watch has accused the Ethiopian government of at times forcibly returning asylum seekers with the help of neighbouring states. The Ethiopian government denies these claims.

Some Ethiopian journalists have also sought political refuge abroad, fleeing anti-terrorism laws – which criminalise comments critical of the government. Dozens have been imprisoned under the laws, including prominent blogger Eskinder Nega, jailed for 18 years.

There are also thousands of Ethiopians who leave the country for economic reasons. Despite having one of the fastest growing economies globally, Ethiopia remains poor with many living on under $2 (£1.20) a day.

News grab of hijacked Ethiopian planeThere were about 200 people on board the plane hijacked

The co-pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines plane flying from Addis Ababa to Rome has hijacked the aircraft and landed in Geneva, Swiss police say.

Geneva airport chief executive Robert Deillon says the co-pilot handed himself over to police

The hijacker – who has been arrested – waited for the pilot to go to the toilet to lock himself in the cockpit. He was unarmed. He has requested asylum in Switzerland.

The airline said in a statement that all passengers and crew were safe.

Geneva airport, which was closed for a time, has now reopened.

An Ethiopian man born in 1983, the co-pilot has sought asylum due to fear of persecution in Ethiopia, police said at a news conference.

After locking himself in the cockpit, he asked to refuel at Geneva, landed the plane, climbed down from the cockpit window using a rope (available in the cockpit), and gave himself up to police.

He was unarmed and there was no risk at any time to crew or passengers, police said.

The situation inside the plane remained calm throughout.

The co-pilot himself alerted the authorities to the plane’s hijacking, officials added – and passengers on the plane were unaware it had been hijacked.

The only possible offence the co-pilot could be charged with is that of hostage-taking, for which he could face up to 20 years of imprisonment, a Geneva prosecutor said at the news conference.

Flight 702 was scheduled to leave the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, at 00:30 local time (21:30 GMT), and arrive in Rome at 04:40 local time.

Geneva police confirmed the plane – a Boeing 767-300 – had made an unscheduled landing in the Swiss city at 06:00.

The flight was hijacked as it was flying over Sudan, reports the Tribune de Geneve newspaper.

Police stand on an air stair leading the Ethiopian Airlines flight en route to RomePolice evacuate passengers from the plane
Police stand around the aircraft after passengers were evacuated from a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines Plane on the airport in GenevaThe co-pilot used a rope to climb out of the window of the cockpit at Geneva airport

In a statement, Ethiopian Airlines said Flight 702 “on scheduled service departing from Addis Ababa 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,” it added in the statement.

All 200 passengers and crew on board the plane were in good health, the company said,

Passengers came out of the aircraft at about 08:00 (local time) surrounded by dozens of police, the Tribune de Geneve reports

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Posted by on February 17, 2014. Filed under FEATURED. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

13 Responses to Ethiopian Airlines hijack: Co-pilot took control of plane (update)

  1. Solomon Reply

    February 17, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    The WEST will not tolerate such act since such act set a bad precedent to the safety of the entire airline industry, and of course Kidnapping airplain full of people amounts to terrorism, the charge will not be easy.

  2. Dilawit Reply

    February 17, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    This is just another proof that the Prime Minster Hailemariam Deslegbn’s Admisnstration is tightening it’s totalitarian style grip too much chocking the life out of the honest hard working people of Ethiopia. Farmer’s in many parts of Ethiopia are starting to be forced to sell their products to a governmental affiliated distribution agency only for a price set by the government/ If this is nopt a command economy I do not know what is. Onion Farmer’s in Nazret have said the government donot pay them enough and are THREATENED they will be dealt with if they donot continue to farm like salves and sell their products which does not even cover their expenses. They are afraid for their life. The egency takes the onions and sells it top the stores for a PRICE MORE THAN 10 TIMES MORE THAN WHAT the farmers were paid which finally makes life unbearable to another hard working person like this Airlines pilot.If you look at the big picture people in Ethiopia are unable to support their family nomatter they are farmers, pilots, doctors , teachers or so on being treated as personal slves of the few elites living a life of limitless control. .

  3. Abegaz Reply

    February 17, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Inside information indicate that the copilot hijacked Ethiopian Boeing 767 because he was deeply offended by Alemneh Mekonnen who scolded the Amara peasants, that were forcefully removed from Benishangul, as unclean barefoot chauvinist people. He was agitated to do the jacking because government took no action to bring the person to justice nor he was suspended from the party for his offensive remarks.

  4. ዸረጀ Reply

    February 17, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    what a DOMMA RAS. what the hell was he thinking? he will have a looooong time in jail to think about it.

    ጉድ ነው ዘንድሮ

  5. tompre Reply

    February 17, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    Just incredible story.

    What on earth going on in Ethiopia for a copilot to take such an extreme measure? I am sure he is smart perosn and had other options to seek asylum. The only explanation is he deliberately chose such a dramatic route to bring to world attention the pesecution going on in Ethiopia by the rebel TPLF regime.

    But, God, at what risk?

  6. tompore Reply

    February 17, 2014 at 6:57 PM

    Do you want to write በእማረኛ ወይንም በትግርኛ like this , download a free trial by
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  7. Goh Taye Reply

    February 17, 2014 at 9:24 PM

    Ethiopian Airlines Pilots/Copilots are among the highest paid employees in the country.This Copilot had many choices of defecting with out taking any risk.I think he made this dramatic choice because he has a cause to do it.I think he has succeeded 110 percent. The wide media coverage his actions gained against the ethnocentric dictatorial regime of Ethiopia cannot be underestimated.I am sure the Ethiopian government will entertain ,in the future,similar dramatic and unforeseen methods of struggle including from unsuspected quarters.The way out is to solve the crisis through peaceful means by democratizing the system and sharing power so that everybody will live in peace and security.

  8. CNN News Reply

    February 18, 2014 at 4:12 AM

    While rare, a pilot hijacking an airline is not unheard of.
    In 1998, an Air China captain, reportedly disgruntled with life in China, hijacked his passenger jet to Taiwan.

    Source:http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/17/world/europe/ethiopian-airlines-hijacking/

  9. ሳተናው Reply

    February 18, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    እንደ ተለመደው ወያኔ በፓይለቱ ላይ የውሸት ወሬውን ጀመረ:: ለዚህም ሴራው Dire tube ንና ethiotube ን እየተጠቀመ ነው:: ጠላፊው ሃይለመድህንን እብድ ነው የሚለውን የሃሰት ፕሮፓጋንዳ በነዚህ ሁለት የወያኔ ድህረ ገጾች አማካኝነት ወያኔ እየረጨ ነው::

  10. ሳተናው Reply

    February 18, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    እንደ ተለመደው ወያኔ በፓይለቱ ላይ የውሸት ወሬውን ጀመረ:: ለዚህም ሴራው Dire tube ንና ethiotube ን and yehabesha.com እየተጠቀመ ነው:: ጠላፊው ሃይለመድህንን እብድ ነው የሚለውን የሃሰት ፕሮፓጋንዳ በነዚህ ሁለት የወያኔ ድህረ ገጾች አማካኝነት ወያኔ እየረጨ ነው::

  11. Kibrom Alexive Reply

    February 18, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    It is a very serious decision to hijack and ask for asylum. I could not understand what made this high-profile gentle man to do it this way because hijacking is a critical issue at law which may end up with longer years imprisonment of a young, qualified and skilled/knowledgeable man. What had happened not to look for and try other options on the line of asylum? Was is not possible to stay absorbed in while he flight and board at in any of the countries that he thought reliable not to be denied for asylum ?
    May God help him to get merciful decision by law!

  12. Alemu R. Reply

    February 18, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Do You Remember Sep-11 ?

    Do you think the hijacker/Co-pilot linked to any political opposition group here in the west or back home ?
    If he does link to any of them,then we must inform the America, Canadian and European secret services agencies asap, since hijacking airplane in international borders is the safety and concern of all citizens.
    It is the duty of all peace loving citizens to stop such terrorist act from becoming deadly tragedy in the near future.

  13. Tazabew Reply

    February 18, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    Forcing people to the wrong destination without their will is a crime without question, but endangering and Hijacking hundreds of peoples lives is for sure TERRORISM.

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