Why 'Medically Sane' Ethiopian Co-pilot Hijacked and Threatened to Crash the Plane?

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By Johnlee Varghese | February 18, 2014 11:10 PM EST

Why exactly was the co-pilot of the hijacked Ethiopian plan seeking asylum in Switzerland? While the reason still remains quite unclear, it has emerged that 31-year-old Hailemedehin Abera Tagegn - in a desperate bid - even threatened to crash the plane.

Reuters
Police officers stand around hijacked Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 702 at Cointrin airport in Geneva. Reuters

"We thought the co-pilot had gone mad," a Swiss daily quoted a passenger as saying. Francesco Cuomo, a 25-year-old development economist was among the 202 passengers on board the flight ET-702. "The captain was threatening to open the cockpit door and tried to break it down without success. That's when we understood that something serious was going on," he said.

Meanwhile, Swiss daily The Local stated: "In an audio recording the captain of the plane was heard saying 'The pilot is still locked inside the cockpit but he is not armed. He threatened to crash the plane.'"

The co-pilot, after landing the plane in Geneva, scaled down from the cockpit window using a rope and surrendered himself to the Swiss police, asking for asylum.

In the meantime, the Ethiopian government stated that Abera Tagegn had no reason to fear any harm in Ethiopia as he had a clean record.

"So far it is known that he was medically sane, until otherwise is proven through the investigation which is going on right now. We don't see any criminal record.. and there was no reason for him to be prosecuted so there was no reason for him to flee," Ethiopia's information minister Redwan Hussein said.

The Boeing 767-300 plane, which was originally headed to Rome from Addis Ababa, landed at the Geneva airport at 6.02 am local time on Monday. An interesting development in this story would be the reason that forced the co-pilot of the Ethiopian Airlines to take such a criminal action. It is reported that Abera Tagegn has been working with the airlines for the last five years.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
Police officers stand around hijacked Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 702 at Cointrin airport in Geneva. Reuters
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