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Hijacker held after Ethiopian plane lands at Geneva airport

Monday, 17 February 2014 - 12:29pm IST | Agency: Reuters

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.

Airport police said the situation was "under control" 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. Swiss police did not immediately identify the hijacker.

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. "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.

State-run Ethiopian television said there had been 193 passengers on board the Boeing aircraft, including 140 Italian nationals. The brief drama in Geneva on Monday morning caused the cancellation of some short-haul flights and some incoming flights were diverted to other airports. Hundreds of passengers booked on disrupted flights scrambled to change their tickets.

ASYLUM
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 was made.

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. Ethiopian nationals and the Horn of Africa country's flag carrier have been involved in several hijackings in the past.

In 1993, an Ethiopian used a gun hidden in his hat to hijack a German passenger jet bound for New York. He was later sentenced to 20 years in a US prison. Two years later, police in Greece overpowered an Ethiopian hijacker who held a knife to the throat of an Olympic Airways stewardess and demanded political asylum.

At least 50 people were killed when a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet crashed in the Indian Ocean in 1996. In 2001, a dozen Ethiopian students hijacked a plane carrying around 60 people and flew to Sudan.


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