Friday, November 25, 2016

Ethiopia frees detained Western pilots


Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority Director-General Wossenyeleh Hinegnaw.

The Ethiopian government has freed 40 Western pilots arrested for violating its airspace.

The pilots crossed into the Ethiopian territory on 20 small aircraft on Tuesday.

They were taking part in a vintage plane rally when they entered Ethiopia from Sudan.

The planes, dating from the 1920s and 1930s, took off from the Greek island of Crete on November 12 on a 13,000km journey to Cape Town.

Their journey

They were allowed to travel to Nairobi, Kenya upon their release.

“VintageAirRally crew are allowed to fly on from Ethiopia! Aviators who were detained in Ethiopia are now free to continue their journey.

"The adventure continues!,” the group posted on their Facebook page.

Light aircraft

The Western pilots were detained on Tuesday for entering Gambella Town- located western Ethiopia bordering South Sudan, which has experienced civil unrest for close to three years.

“The Western pilots, who entered into Ethiopia with their 20 light aircraft have been detained in Gambella for 'illegally' entering into the country and are under investigation,”  the Director-General of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, Mr Wossenyeleh Hinegnaw, said Thursday afternoon.

Among the detainees were US and British nationals.

State of emergency

The US embassy said several of its citizens were among those arrested and that it was working with the government for detailed information and to have consular access.

Following Ethiopia’s declaration of state of emergency on October 8, 2016, the US Department of State "warned US citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ethiopia due to ongoing unrest that has led to hundreds of deaths, thousands of arrests, as well as injuries and extensive property damage, especially in Amhara and Oromia States.”

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