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Kate Clark reporting from kandahar
"The hijackers only allowed him one hour of freedom"
 real 28k

The BBC's Yvette Austin
"The hijackers demanded his return after treatment and he is now back on the plane"
 real 28k

Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 14:20 GMT
Hostage returned to hijack plane

taleban troops Taleban troops discuss the situation at Kandahar airport

A sick hostage released from a hijacked aircraft in Afghanistan has been returned to the plane after brief hospital treatment.

Hijack Special Report
The man, a 30-year-old Indian, was taken by ambulance to hospital suffering from a stomach complaint. He was the first hostage released since Sunday.

The hijackers allowed him to be taken away for treatment only on condition that he was returned to the aircraft within 90 minutes.

The Taleban authorities, who negotiated the release, have been moving more armed men and military vehicles onto the tarmac at the airport, where the plane has been held since Saturday.

'No plans to storm aircraft'

The Taleban foreign minister, Abdul Wakil Muttawakil, said there was nothing unusual in the deployment and he denied there was any intention to storm the plane, in which more than 150 people are being held hostage.

A BBC correspondent at the airport says the move appears to be a show of force designed to concentrate the minds of both hijackers and the Indian negotiators, who have begun a new round of talks.

The hijackers are demanding the release of 36 pro-Kashmiri militants from Indian jails.

Foreign Minister Mutawakil addresses journalists on the tarmac Foreign Minister Mutawakil addresses journalists on the tarmac
The ruling Taleban militia has shown signs of impatience and has threatened to force the plane to leave Afghanistan unless there is progress towards a conclusion of the hostages' ordeal.

Representatives of the 23 non-Indian captives on board are also at the airport, but are not directly involved in the negotiations and have not been able to speak to their citizens.

"We are just here to monitor their welfare," one western diplomat said.

"This is an Indian plane and we have left it to the Indians."

Another diplomat complained that the Indians did not seem to have any tactics. He said: "They have to keep reporting back to Delhi and waiting for their response."

The United States sent an official to Kandahar on Thursday for the first time - an Afghan official from the US consulate in Kabul. The American passenger is reported to be a woman in her 50s, who is suffering from health problems.

US citizens are banned from entering Afghanistan.

The United Nations co-ordinator for Afghanistan, Erik de Mul, who took part in the first negotiations with the hijackers earlier this week has also returned to Kandahar.

Seventh day

The 160 hostages are entering their seventh day in captivity.

In New York, a UN spokesman has said that a humanitarian official will return to Kandahar airport with extra food deliveries from Pakistan for the hostages, diplomats and negotiators.

Little is known about the condition of the hostages but UN and Red Cross teams are standing by, and some medicines have been allowed on board.

Two demands dropped

The hijackers gave up their demand for $200m ransom money, as well as a request that the body of a Kashmiri separatist be handed over, after a request by the Taleban.

Pramod Mahajan: Pramod Mahajan: "No material change"
But a demand for the release of 35 Kashmiri separatists from Indian jail still stands.

"We requested the hijackers on behalf of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to abandon all their un-Islamic demands," A Talebban official said.

Meanwhile, the Indian cabinet met for crisis talks to study their options. A spokesman said the dropping of two demands by the hijackers made no material difference to the situation.

Click here to see the hijacked plane's route

Taleban praised

The Taleban authorities have been praised by Indian ministers for their handling of the situation.

"The positive stand of the Afghan Government that there should be no bloodshed or else they would storm the aircraft had made them [the hijackers] withdraw their demand," Home Minister LK Advani said.

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

The relatives of the hostages on board the aircraft have come out in support of the Indian Government's stance.

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

On Wednesday, the hijackers allowed three airport staff members to board the aircraft and clean it.

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. The hijackers have so far stabbed one passenger to death.

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See also:
30 Dec 99 |  South Asia
History of hijacking
29 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Hijackers drop two demands
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
28 Dec 99 |  South Asia
International concern over hijack
25 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Profile: Maulana Masood Azhar
26 Dec 99 |  South Asia
In pictures: The Indian Airlines hijack
27 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Indian media slams government

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