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Five Nigerians In Hijacked Rome-bound Ethiopian Airplane

Five Nigerians were among the 193 passengers on board the Rome-bound Ethiopian Airplane, Boeing 767 that was hijacked Monday by its 31-year-old Ethiopian co-pilot, Hailemedihn Abera Tegegn, the Ethiopian government has said.

Ethiopian Information and Communication minister, Redwan Hussein, who confirmed this during a news conference in Addis Ababa, said other passengers included 140 Italians, 11 Americans among others.

Hussein expressed regrets for the “undue emotional stress and inconvenience” that the passengers faced, adding that the Ethiopian government and its Swiss counterpart were making effort to accelerate the travel of Flight 702 passengers to their intended destination.

The Boeing 767-300 flight took off from Addis Abba and was bound for Milan via Rome. It landed at Geneva International Airport at around 6:02 am (0500 GMT) in the morning, police said.

The co-pilot, who took control of the plane by locking himself in the cockpit when the pilot left to use the toilet, said he was not safe in his country and had tried to seek asylum in Switzerland.

But the Information minister said the act of the said Asylum-seeking co-pilot was in violation of article 32 of the Ethiopian Constitution, which guaranteed the freedom of citizens to travel out of the country.

“It also represents a gross betrayal of trust that needlessly endangered the lives of the very passengers that a pilot is morally and professionally obliged to safeguard,” he added.

Police spokesperson, Eric Grandjean, said investigation was under way and the hijacker who turned himself in and was subsequently arrested would be prosecuted.

A similar incident occurred in Geneva airport in 1985, when an Air Afrique plane was hijacked by a Lebanese gunman and one passenger was killed.

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