The perpetually simmering tensions of the Middle East spilled over into the skies a few days ago when a passenger allegedly tried to murder a fellow traveller during an international flight.
The incident occurred just before the weekend on an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Chad to Ethiopia. It ended with Ethiopian police arresting a Sudanese man for allegedly attempting to murder a middle-aged Jewish-Israeli passenger.
Ynetnews, the English-language edition of Ynet, Israel’s largest and most popular news and content website, identified the 54-year-old victim only by his first name, Arik. He works for an Israeli company operating in Africa.
“About 20 minutes before the plane started its descent, the passenger sitting behind me identified me as Israeli and Jewish,” Arik told Ynet. “He came up behind my seat and started to choke me with a lot of force, and at first I couldn’t get my voice out and call for help.
“He hit me over the head with a metal tray and shouted ‘Allah akbar’ [God is great] and ‘I will slaughter the Jew.’ Only after a few seconds, just before I was about to lose consciousness, did I manage to call out and a flight attendant who saw what was happening summoned her colleagues.”
Arik said his attacker tried to incite the other passengers to lynch him. A Lebanese passenger was one of the few to come to his aid.
“After we landed the Lebanese guy told me that I’d been saved twice, because after they’d overpowered my attacker, he [the attacker] said to everyone, ‘Let’s finish him off,’” Arik said.
In a statement following the incident, Ethiopian Airlines said: “The attacker, who has been identified as Ahmed Mohamed, showed no signs of violence as he was boarding the flight.
“He attacked not only the Israeli but also other passengers and members of the flight crew. He is still in detention.” The alleged assailant was due to appear in court yesterday.
Arik was examined at an airport medical clinic and discharged soon afterwards, the airline said. He was able to continue on to Tel Aviv as planned.
“We are sorry for the incident and will do everything we can in order to prevent further such attacks on our Israeli customers,” the statement said.
Written by Peter Needham