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Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 07:28 GMT
Afghan airline grounded
Kabul airport
All 1,300 of Ariana's staff have been sacked
Kate Clark

The United Nations has said the national airline of Afghanistan, Ariana, has effectively been put out of business by the air strikes.

The airline was already struggling to survive after UN sanctions, introduced to pressurise the Taleban into handing over Osama Bin Laden, forced it to stop flying overseas two years ago.

The air strikes have reportedly damaged several aircraft - Boeings and Antonovs - as well as putting a stop to its domestic flights.

Ariana office
Ariana's Kabul offices are deserted

Now all 1,300 of Ariana's staff have been sacked.

That, said a UN spokesman, has effectively put the airline out of business - 55 years after the American carrier, PanAm, sponsored its creation.

National institution

After more than 20 years of war, Ariana was probably the last remaining national institution left in Afghanistan.

Walking into its offices felt like entering a small slice of pre-war Kabul. Many of the pilots and engineers were trained decades ago.

They were virtually the only Afghan men still to wear trousers as part of their uniforms, after the Taleban made the baggy shalwar kameez compulsory.

The need for technical prowess meant it was probably the only state organisation where educated Afghans, rather than Taleban were still in the majority.

The airline last made the headlines 18 months ago, when one of its planes was hijacked by Afghan asylum seekers and forcibly flown to London.

The hijack was brought to an end when the cockpit crew made a daring escape from the plane.

During the long civil war, crews have kept the planes flying, even as the rockets fell. But it seems there could be no fighting back against the American air campaign.

See also:

11 Feb 01 | South Asia
UN blocks Afghan safety flights
27 Aug 00 | South Asia
Afghan pilots' plea over airline
06 Feb 00 | South Asia
Ariana: Flying in the face of adversity
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