• France's news in English

Hijacking: French cover for 'off duty' Swiss jets

The Local/AFP · 18 Feb 2014, 08:42

Published: 18 Feb 2014 08:42 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

When the plane’s co-pilot took hold of the aircraft after the pilot had popped to the toilet it was Italian and French fighter jets who were immediately scrambled once the alarm was raised.

First of all two Italian Eurofighter’s took the responsibility of escorting the aircraft which had been due to land in Rome and then two Mirages 2000 French planes from the French airforce took over at the border and accompanied the hijacked aircraft to Switzerland.

At no point did the Swiss airforce intervene. This wasn’t due to the fact officials had not been alerted, which they had been at 4.30am, it was just that presumably they were all still at home in bed as the Swiss airforce is only operational during normal office hours i.e. not before 8am.

This was confirmed by a Swiss airforce spokesman Laurent Savary on Monday.

"Switzerland cannot intervene because its airbases are closed at night and on the weekend," the spokesman told AFP.

"It's a question of budget and staffing,” he added.

Savary said Switzerland relies heavily on deals with its neighbors, especially France, to help police its airspace outside regular office hours.

He explained that French fighters can escort a suspicious aircraft into Swiss airspace, "but there is no question of shooting it down. It's a question of national sovereignty".

Switzerland is apparently planning to expand its airforce and make it operational around the clock and even on weekends, but that will not be until at least 2020.

Until then French airforce pilots will just have to accept taking on the extra workload.

A total of 202 passengers and crew were on board the Boeing 767 as the drama unfolded. Addis Ababa identified the co-pilot as 31-year-old Hailemedehin Abera Tagegn, who has been working for the airline for five years.

Story continues below…

He told police "he felt threatened in his country and wants to seek asylum in Switzerland," Swiss police spokesman Eric Grandjean told AFP.

SEE ALSO: Swiss army trains for French invasion

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France given wake up call as it bids for Brexit business
The business district 'La Defense' in Paris. Photo: AFP

France clearly has some work to do if it really wants to pinch business from the UK post-Brexit.

Mouth fun? French words you just can't translate literally
Do you know the French word for throat-support? Photo: AFP

Word of warning: Don't translate French literally.

How France plans to help its stressed-out police force
Yellow smoke rises around French police officers in Paris holding a banner reading "Solidarity with our colleagues, police angry". All photos: AFP

Could these measures stop the cops from protesting?

'3,000 migrants dispersed' after 'Jungle' clearance
Photo: AFP

While thousands of migrants have been bussed out around France, new ones are arriving all the time and thousands of others have simply been dispersed aid agencies say.

Fifteen of the most bizarre laws in France
Photo: Matthew Powell/Flickr

A must read for anyone who wants to stay on the right side of the law in France.

Medieval town in south of France upholds ban on UFOs
The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Photo: Aa77zz/Flickr

Aliens take note.

American tourist dies at French Riviera sex club
The Riviera resort of Cannes. Photo: AFP

American tourist reportedly fell five floors after being pushed outside the underground sex club in Cannes.

Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Photo: SeaBubbles

An in Seine idea surely? But tests will go ahead.

France joins fight for rich pickings from post-Brexit UK
Photo: AFP/DcnH/Flickr

France tries to woo EU's bank regulator and other agencies.

How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available