An Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked a plane bound for Rome on Monday and flew it to Geneva, where he wanted to seek asylum, officials said.

The Boeing 767-300 plane with 202 passengers and crew aboard had taken off from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and landed in the Swiss city at about 6 am (0500 GMT). Officials said no one on the flight was injured.

Geneva airport chief executive Robert Deillon told reporters that the co-pilot took control of the plane when the pilot ventured outside the cockpit.

“The pilot went to the toilet and he (the co-pilot) locked himself in the cockpit,” Mr. Deillon said.

The man “wanted asylum in Switzerland,” he said. “That’s the motivation of the hijacking.”

The hijacking began over Italy and two Italian fighter jets were scrambled to accompany the plane, according to Mr. Deillon.

Passengers on the plane were unaware it had been hijacked, officials said.

A few minutes after landing in Geneva, the co-pilot exited the cockpit using a rope, “then he went to the police forces who were on the ground close to the aircraft,” Geneva police spokesman Eric Grandjean said. “He announced that he was himself the hijacker.”

Police escorted passengers one by one, their hands over their heads, from the taxied plane to waiting vehicles.

Geneva prosecutor Olivier Jornot said Swiss federal authorities were investigating the hijacking and would press charges that could carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Geneva airport was initially closed to other flights, but operations resumed around two hours after the hijacked plane landed. “We hope everything will return to normal in the afternoon,” Mr. Deillon said.

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