Passengers tell of terror as co-pilot hijacks plane

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Associated Press

Posted on February 17, 2014 at 3:32 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 17 at 3:35 PM

GENEVA (AP) — One passenger says he was terrified "for hours" after the co-pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines jetliner locked the pilot out of the cockpit, commandeered the plane and headed for Geneva, where he asked for political asylum.

Passengers said it seemed like a routine overnight flight to Rome, until the jetliner went into a dive and oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. A passenger says the hijacker threatened to crash the plane if the pilot didn't stop pounding on the locked door, trying to get back into the cockpit.

The plane was carrying 200 people, including seven crew members. Eleven Americans were among the passengers.

The co-pilot was taken into custody in Geneva, after leaving the cockpit through the window, using a rope. Swiss authorities say the hijacker is more likely to get prison time than asylum.

It's not clear why he chose Switzerland over the plane's original destination of Italy. Swiss voters recently demanded curbs on immigration. But Italy has a reputation among many Africans as not being hospitable to asylum seekers.

Ethiopia says it will seek the extradition of the hijacker.

%@AP Links

170-w-38-(Rita Foley, AP correspondent)--The co-pilot of a passenger jet hijacked it after threatening to crash it, say witnesses and officials. AP correspondent Rita Foley reports. (17 Feb 2014)

<<CUT *170 (02/17/14)££ 00:38

172-c-19-(Rita Foley, AP correspondent,)-"nobody was hurt"-AP correspondent Rita Foley reports on how the drama began. (17 Feb 2014)

<<CUT *172 (02/17/14)££ 00:19 "nobody was hurt"

APPHOTO GE109: Police stand on the stairs after passengers were evacuated from a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines Plane on the airport in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014.The aircraft traveling from Addis Abeda, Ethiopia, to Rome, Italy, has landed at Geneva's international airport early Monday morning. Swiss authorities have arrested the co-pilot. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi) (17 Feb 2014)

<<APPHOTO GE109 (02/17/14)££

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