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Co-pilot hijacks his own plane to seek asylum in Switzerland

Co-pilot hijacks his own plane to seek asylum in Switzerland

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An Ethiopian Airlines flight to Italy made an unexpected landing in Switzerland Monday morning after being hijacked by its co-pilot. According to local police, the co-pilot took control of the plane by locking the cockpit door when the main pilot was in the bathroom. He then proceeded to overshoot Rome, where the flight was scheduled to land, before heading over 400 miles away to the Swiss city of Geneva, where a recording uploaded by former Reuters social media editor Matthew Keys reveals he requested asylum. The authenticity of the recording has not been verified, but Keys has a solid record for unearthing such material.

A purported recording of the co-pilot requesting asylum (Matthew Keys / Twitter).

After circling several times, the co-pilot then landed at Geneva International Airport. It appears that discussions with airport officials continued after landing, before the co-pilot-turned-hijacker left the plane through a window on a rope. After leaving the aircraft he then surrendered to police, requesting asylum in Switzerland. In another recording uploaded by Keys, the co-pilot can be heard informing officials he is leaving the plane via a rope.

Although the hijacking was likely an upsetting experience for the passengers aboard the aircraft, Swiss police say no weapons were involved and "there was no risk to crew or passengers at any time." A press release issued this morning by Ethiopian Airlines refers to the hijacking as a "forced landing" and the company says it's "making immediate arrangements to fly its esteemed customers on-board the flight to their intended destinations." Investigations into the incident continue.