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The BBC's Zaffer Abbas
"Abdus Sattar said it seemed as if Delhi was using the incident to malign Pakistan"
 real 28k

BBC's Samantha Simmonds
"For relatives of the remaining hostages the anger is building up"
 real 28k

Sunday, 26 December, 1999, 18:24 GMT
Anger over handling of hijack

Their message is "Save innocent passengers at any cost"

Angry relatives of passengers held hostage on an Indian Airlines plane have stormed a foreign ministry press conference in Delhi insisting that the hijackers' demands be met.

The group of relatives began shouting and waving their fists at Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, accusing the government of foot-dragging and cowardice over the hijacking.

Pakistan too has accused the Indian Government of using the hi-jacking issue to malign Islamabad by insinuating that it could be possibly involved.

Passenger Rippin Katyal's funeral touched millions
The plane was hijacked by five armed Muslim militants after it took off from Kathmandu and forced it to land in Kandahar, Afghanistan, after a series of flights across the sub-continent.

The hijackers have demanded the release of an Islamic cleric jailed in Indian-administered Kashmir.

"Why can't this person be released," proclaimed one man, who has six relatives on the plane.

Mr Singh tried to pacify the group by saying the government would do whatever was possible to secure the immediate release of all the passengers.

"I am greatly concerned about your anxiety," he said. "I share your grief."

Singh and Vajpayee tried to defuse the relatives' frustration
The relatives made unfavourable comparisons with release in 1990 of Kashmiri militants in return of the release of the abducted daughter of an Indian politician.

"The government response has been at best meagre and ineffective," another man said. "They cannot set two standards for people.

"We will not lose Kashmir because of the release of one person," he added.

In an attempt to diffuse criticism, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee later met more than 100 of the relatives to explain the government position.

"We are making every effort to bring back all the passengers in safety," he said in a statement. "We hope that the aircraft will return safe and sound, but these type of incidents remind us to be always alert and vigilant."

Kept in the dark

Other complaints have centred on the accusation that Delhi was not keeping family members properly informed of developments in the hijack drama.

There has been extensive coverage of the crisis on Indian TV, including harrowing pictures of grieving relatives of one passenger killed by hijackers.

The son and mother of co-pilot Rajender Kumar
Some family members are preparing to spend a third tense night at Delhi's international airport.

Frustration has boiled over into anger directed towards officials and the media during the relatives' vigil.

"We are not getting any help or information and now we don't expect anything," said a man whose brother had won his air ticket in a lottery.

About 160 passengers and crew are being held hostage by the hijackers, who have threatened to kill them if their demands are not taken seriously

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See also:
26 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Hijack standoff in Afghanistan
25 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Airport ordeal for relatives
25 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Chronology of a hijack
26 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Hijackers free passenger
26 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Despair and delight in Delhi
25 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Profile: Maulana Masood Azhar
26 Dec 99 |  South Asia
In pictures: The Indian Airlines hijack
26 Dec 99 |  South Asia
UN arrives at hijack scene

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