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Rageh Omaar, World Affairs Correspondent
"Hijackers' identity and demand are yet unknown"
 real 28k

The BBC's Frank Gardner in Dubai
"Women and children expected to be released "
 real 28k

Friday, 24 December, 1999, 23:18 GMT
Hijack negotiations in Dubai

The aircraft is an Airbus300 like this one

A hijacked Indian Airlines plane with more than 180 passengers on board has landed in the United Arab Emirates.

The plane touched down at a military airbase near Dubai after being refused permission to land in Afghanistan.

The hijackers claim to have killed four of the passengers.

A BBC correspondent in Dubai says negotiators are trying to secure the release of 57 women and 13 child passengers in return for refuelling the plane.

Emirates Information Minister Abdullah bin Zayed said: "We will allow it to refuel and we will provide it with medical aid and food if needed.

"We are not interested in allowing them to stay for a long time."

Unidentified hijackers

The drama began at about 1700 local time (1130 GMT) on 24 December when five armed men took control of the A300 Airbus.

Initially the plane tried to land in Lahore, but was denied permission by the Pakistani Government.

Lahore Tight security as the hijacked plane lands in Lahore
It then flew to the Indian city of Amritsar, where it spent 40 minutes on the ground without refuelling before flying on to Lahore.

The plane landed without permission in Lahore, despite the fact that runway lights had been switched off.

The plane was reported to be on the point of running out of fuel as it landed.

The decision to allow the plane to refuel and leave Lahore came after the hijackers claimed to have killed some of those on board.

The indentity of the hijackers is not known. But media speculation in India is attempting to pin blame on Pakistan or Kashmiri Muslim separatist militants.

Hostages mainly Indian

The civil aviation minister for the ruling Taleban in Afghanistan said that he had rejected a request to allow the plane to land in Kabul.

"The plane asked to land in Kabul but we have not given permission," Mullah Akhtar Mansoor told the Afghan Islamic Press from the southern city of Kandahar.

Facilities are primitive at Kabul airport, and it seemed unlikely that a plane could land there safely during the hours of darkness.

The Indian Airlines flight was on a daily run from the Nepalese capital, Katmandu to Delhi - a popular route for tourists and business travellers.

There are reported to be 189 passengers on board, of whom 150 are Indian. Other nationalities include Nepali, Swiss, Spanish, Canadian, French, Belgian, American, Japanese and Italian.

In the past, attempts to hijack Indian aircraft and take them to Lahore have failed, usually because authorities there refused the aircraft permission to land.

The last such hijacking took place in 1993, when a lone hijacker comandeered an aircraft and attempted to take it to Pakistan.

The hijackings have usually been carried out by separatist militants.

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