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Mike Wooldridge reports from Delhi
"All ministers have been told to be on hand in Delhi for daily meetings for the duration of the crisis"
 real 28k

The BBC's Yvette Austin
"The Indian government held an emergency cabinet meeting"
 real 28k

Vikram Badshah, Director, Corporate Affairs
"We understand that the passengers on board are well and are not blindfolded any more"
 real 28k

Jon-Hans Coetzer, Red Cross
"The Red Cross is ready to transfer passengers once they are released from the plane"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 29 December, 1999, 14:06 GMT
Hijackers drop two demands

Indian negotiators are continuing talks at Kandahar airport Indian negotiators are continuing talks at Kandahar airport

The hijackers of an Indian airliner have dropped two of their demands, according to Indian negotiators in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

We asked them to drop two demands, which were un-Islamic
Taleban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakil
They say the hijackers, who are holding 160 hostages on board the aircraft, were persuaded to give up their demand for $200m ransom money, as well as a request that the body of a Kashmiri separatist be handed over.

The BBC's Kate Clark in Kandahar says a demand for the release of 35 Kashmiri separatists from Indian jail still stands.

Water for the hostages on board Water for the hostages on board
Taleban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakil said the hijackers were told their demands were "un-Islamic".

"We requested the hijackers on behalf of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to abandon all their un-Islamic demands," he told a news conference in Kandahar.

Mr Mutawakel also said the Taleban wanted a swift resolution of the crisis and said if the Indian Government did not accept the hijackers' demands, they could ask the plane to leave Kandahar.

On Tuesday, the hijackers stepped up their demands, asking for money and the release of the jailed separatists. They also asked for the body of Sajjad Afghani, a leader of the militant Harkat-ul Ansar group.

The relatives of the hostages on board the aircraft have said they were fully behind the Indian Government and would support any decision they took.

There was no question of accepting the hijackers' demands, one relative told the BBC.

Aircraft cleaned

Meanwhile, Taleban authorities at Kandahar airport say the hijackers allowed staff to board the aircraft and clean it.

Hijack timeline
24 Dec 1055 GMT: Plane leaves Kathmandu
1130 GMT: Hijackers demand to be flown to Lahore, Pakistan
1331 GMT: Plane lands at Amritsar, India
1437 GMT: Plane lands at Lahore without Pakistani permission.
2010 GMT: Plane lands at Al-Minhad military air base near Dubai, UAE
25 Dec 0055 GMT: Some hostages released and plane takes off
0303 GMT: Plane lands at Kandahar, Afghanistan
27 Dec Indian negotiators arrive Kandahar
They were the first people to see the hostages since their ordeal began five days ago.

They said the hijackers were carrying pistols and hand grenades, but the passengers seemed relaxed, playing cards and chess and listening to music.

Passengers were no longer blindfolded, they said, and some were allowed to move around the aircraft.

On Tuesday the hijackers refused a request by negotiators that they release children and their mothers.

The hijackers allowed an Indian engineer on board the aircraft to try to repair a broken engine.

But he was only allowed into the cockpit and was closely guarded while he worked.

Click here to see the hijacked plane's route

The hijackers have so far stabbed one passenger to death.

Several truckloads of militiamen from Afghanistan's ruling Taleban have surrounded the aircraft, which has been on the tarmac for five days.

The Taleban have warned they will storm the plane if the hijackers start killing passengers.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has set up a surgical post at Kandahar airport, and has been distributing medicine to the hostages.

A permanent medical team consisting of an ICRC official, two nurses and an anaesthetist as well as an ambulance were standing by at the post in case they were needed.

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See also:
29 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: India warms to the Taleban
28 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: A high profile militant group
25 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Chronology of a hijack
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Relatives' fury over hijack 'fiasco'
28 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Poor conditions on board plane
28 Dec 99 |  South Asia
International concern over hijack
25 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Profile: Maulana Masood Azhar
27 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Nepal appeal in hijack drama
26 Dec 99 |  South Asia
In pictures: The Indian Airlines hijack
27 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Indian media slams government

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