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Ethiopian Airlines hijacker was co-pilot: airport
February 17, 2014, 12:54 pm
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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

The man who hijacked an Ethiopian Airlines flight en route from Addis Ababa to Rome on Monday was the co-pilot, according to the Geneva airport where the plane was forced to land.

The co-pilot said he had seized his chance when the pilot went to the bathroom, Bertrand Staempfli, the airport spokesman, told reporters.

"He said he felt threatened in his country and wants to seek asylum in Switzerland," he said.

The man, born in 1983 and an Ethiopian citizen, had contacted Geneva Airport and said "he needed to land to fill the tank. After that he announced the hijacking," Staempfli said.

"At 6:02 am, the plane landed safely," he said, adding that the co-pilot had left the plane by scaling down a rope he had thrown out of the cockpit window.

"He didn't have a weapon with him," he said, adding that the hijacker would go before a judge Monday.

Technically, he can be charged with "hostage-taking," and could face up to 20 years in prison, Staempfli said.

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