Sunday, January 2, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

India may move SAARC
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan 1 — India today held Pakistan responsible for engineering the hijacking of the Indian Airline Airbus IC-814 from Kathmandu to Delhi on December 24.

Briefing newspersons about the details of the hijacking, the External Affairs Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, highlighted Islamabad’s complicity in the crime and asserted that the crime committed “shall be retributed and justice sought”.

Pointing an accusing finger at Pakistan, the External Affairs Minister said the five hijackers were Pakistani nationals as per the initial inquiry. They (hijackers) were also consulting people outside the aircraft and the airport, who were not Taliban, over the telephone during the negotiations with the Indian officials at Kandahar, Mr Jaswant Singh said. They were constantly consulting “people outside the aircraft as if a third force was telling them what to do”, he stressed.

The hijackers were taking instructions from somebody, who was stationed close to Pakistani city of Quetta, intelligence sources pointed out.

He said the majority of 36 militants whose release was sought by the hijackers were Pakistanis.

The hijackers along with the three released militants left towards Quetta after partaking in an iftar at Kandahar, the minister said.

Asked if Pakistan was indeed behind the hijacking what did India plan to do, Mr Jaswant Singh said: “We will take it up with Pakistan in an appropriate manner and at an appropriate time”.

Though India did not have an extradition treaty with Pakistan, New Delhi could use SAARC convention on terrorism for getting to the terrorists and hijackers, the sources said.

Answering a question on what would have happened if the Indian Government had not agreed to release three militants, He said it was the government’s assessment that the plane would have been blown up. This was also confirmed after the first de-briefing session with the crew members, he added.

Asked if there was RDX on the plane, the minister replied in the affirmative saying “yes, we had reports”.

Before leaving the Indian Airline plane, one of the hijackers continued to insist on the retrieval of his suitcase, the minister pointed out. Only one hijacker had checked in a suitcase at Tribhuvan Airport at Kathmandu, he said adding that four boarding passes were issued.

“It has come to light that there was a qualitative and quantitative change in the arms displayed by the hijackers,” Mr Jaswant Singh said adding that besides explosives, they were in possession of AK-47 rifles Uzi pistols and grenades.

He said there was a real apprehension that the plane was being readied for being exploded in mid-air if the hijackers’ demands were not conceded.

When asked if his trip to Kandahar was in response to a demand from either the Talibans or the hijackers, the minister said his visit to Kandahar was undertaken to ensure that the agreement with the hijackers was implemented “without any last minute hitch”.

Explaining further, Mr Jaswant Singh said: “We were well aware of the security implications of the porousness of the communication system” used by the Indian negotiating team with New Delhi. The Indian negotiating team was using satellite telephones.

The minister said the government had discussed with the Taliban the option of storming the aircraft. “We considered this option in totality”, he said.

Describing the hijacking as not an “ordinary” one, he said: “It is clear that there were many strands to it. As our inquiry in the entire episode progresses, I am confident that more will be revealed”.

On the role of the Taliban in the hijack crisis, the minister said they had extended constructive cooperation and had assured India that the hijackers and terrorists would not be given asylum or allowed to stay in Afghanistan for more then 10 hours after the release of the hostages.

Asked whether India was now ready to accord diplomacy recognition to the Taliban regime, he said “fundamentals of our Afghan policy remain unchanged and diplomatic recognition is not any conferment of any distinction or based on such episodes”.


Steps to tighten security at airports: PM

NEW DELHI, Jan 1 (PTI) — The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today said that efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue by hijacking an Indian Airlines plane had been defeated and suggested stern measures to tighten security in all airports.

“Rather the hijacking has attracted international attention,” Mr Vajpayee remarked while meeting the released hostages, including members of the crew and their families at his Race Course residence.Back


No whereabouts of hijackers

ISLAMABAD, Jan 1 (Reuters) — Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban today said the five hijackers of an Indian plane and the three freed militants had left the country, but it did not know their whereabouts, a Pakistan-based Afghan news service reported.

‘Those people (hijackers and militants) are no more in Afghanistan,” a Taliban official told the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) from Kandahar.

“We do not know where they (hijackers) are currently,” the Taliban official added.

Another Taliban official said a guard, who had accompanied the hijackers when they left Kandahar airport yesterday evening, had returned, but gave no further details.

The five hijackers and the three Muslim militants, who were released by India in exchange for 154 hostages yesterday, were given 10 hours to leave Afghanistan.

Their whereabouts are still a mystery but diplomats in Islamabad thought the hijackers could be headed towards the occupied Kashmir.

AIP said it had received reports that the Pakistani authorities had tightened security at the border crossings with Afghanistan.

Pakistan today said it would arrest and try the hijackers if they entered the country. Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider said, “ case they enter Pakistan, they will be apprehended and tried as per established international rules to which Pakistan is signatory.”

No immediate comment was available from Pakistan but yesterday a spokesman of the military-led government, Brig Rashid Qureshi, doubted the group was on its way to Pakistan and said the authorities should be able to stop them.

However, a PTI report quoting Urdu daily Jung said the hijackers headed towards Pakistani city of Quetta along with the three released militants immediately after they left Kandahar airport.

It said quoting Taliban Information Minister Abdul Hayee Mutmaeen that the hijackers, had started their journey for Quetta.

Meanwhile Brigadier Qureshi said there was no communication from the Taliban authorities that the hijackers were heading towards Pakistan or where they went after leaving Kandahar airport yesterday.

The Taliban had said the hijackers had been given time to get in touch with any foreign mission in Afghanistan to seek political asylum. Incidentally, only Pakistan, which is one of three countries recognising the ruling militia, has a mission there.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the other two countries which have recognised the Taliban.Back

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