Ethiopian Airlines flight hijacked by co-pilot seeking asylum

(WJLA) - The Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 767, with around 200 aboard, departed Addis Ababa for an overnight trip to Rome. And Flight 702 was uneventful – until about one hour before landing.

Authorities say that’s when the co-pilot locked the cockpit door while the pilot used the restroom. According to passengers, the co-pilot – who has been identified by Ethiopian officials as 31-year-old Hailemedhin Abera – threatened to crash the plane if the pilot continued to try to force his way back into the cockpit.

Passengers say that at one point, the plane began to dip and dive, and oxygen masks even came down.

As it turns out, investigators say Abera felt threatened in his own country, and his goal was asylum in Switzerland. Swiss officials say he bypassed Rome and asked, but was not initially given permission to land at Geneva International Airport.

According to this air traffic website, he repeatedly circled the airport, even telling the tower he was running low on fuel.

Authorities there say the co-pilot, after safely landing the plane, fled out of the cockpit window via a long rope – but was immediately apprehended.

"He came out captured by the police," said Robert Deillon, Geneva Airport Chief Executive.

The passengers, including 11 Americans, were escorted with hands held above their hands out of the plane to safety. No one was injured.