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Ethiopia Grounds 20 Aircraft For Violating Its Airspace


The Ethiopian authorities have grounded 20 aircraft, described as "tourist planes", for violating the country's airspace on Tuesday, the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) says.

ECAA Director-General Colonel Wesenyeleh Hunegnaw told a media conference here Thursday that the aircraft were flying inside Ethiopian airspace without permission. The aircraft were forced to land at Gambella Airport in western Ethiopia near the border with South Sudan.

The authorities are investigating who the owners of the planes are, the number of passengers in each plane, and nationalities of the passengers, he added, stressing that international aviation law does not allow aircraft to land or fly over a country without permission, in violation of the sovereignty of the country.

The planes were detained for further investigation as the passengers could not provide convincing answers to the question why they had violated Ethiopia's airspace, he said.

An investigation team was despatched to Gambella Wednesday morning to investigate the matter and its findings would be made public as soon as the investigation was completed, Col. Wesenyeleh said.

Asked whether the reason for the grounding was because of the state of emergency in the country, he said it had nothing to do with the state of emergency.

"This is a violation of sovereignty," he stressed.

Planes with unscheduled flights are only allowed to land at Addis Ababa Airport, he said, adding that flights which violated this rule are deemed illegal.

He also said this was the first time aircraft had violated Ethiopian airspace.