Bizarre Ethiopian Airlines Hijacking Ends with Copilot’s Arrest

Hijackings are rare these days, and so when word spread of an airliner squawking 7500 over the Mediterranean on Monday, fear and speculation ran rampant on the Internet as amateur sleuths tried to figure out what was happening in real time as the crisis unfolded.

When the situation ended, the answers to what had occurred aboard the Ethiopian Airlines flight were clearer — and quite surprising. The hijacked jet landed safely in Geneva after the copilot allegedly seized control of the Boeing 767-300 and requested asylum in Switzerland.

According to police, the pilot locked himself in the cockpit while the captain was in the lavatory. After the airplane landed, the copilot climbed out through the cockpit window and surrendered to police. He was reportedly distraught over the death of a family member, according to several news sources.

All 193 passengers are safe, although the saga appears to have been a harrowing one. Flight 702 had been en route to Rome from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, when the transponder code 7500 signifying a hijacking was broadcast. The pilot reportedly told passengers a hijacking was underway, but never said where the airplane was headed.

The 767 reportedly reached Geneva with very little fuel remaining after circling the airport several times before landing.

The incident follows an attempted hijacking just before the start of the Olympic Games in Russia, in which a Ukrainian man claiming to have a bomb ordered a Turkish airliner to fly from Kharkov, Ukraine, to Sochi, Russia. The would-be hijacker was subdued before being arrested.

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