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Mike Wooldridge in Delhi
"The question now, could there be a long term impact on the politics of this volatile region?"
 real 28k

Adam Brookes in Afganistan
"Eight days on, one man dead and the hijack is over"
 real 28k

Kate Clark reports from Kandahar
"Hostages said hijackers killed one of their own gang"
 real 28k

Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 10:00 GMT
Hijackers release final hostage

Hijackers demanded the release of Kashmiri militants in India


Taleban officials in Afghanistan say the men who hijacked an Indian airliner have released a hostage taken to ensure their safe passage from the country.

The hijackers had earlier been allowed to leave with the official and with three Kashmiri militants who were exchanged by India for the airline passengers and crew.

Hijack Special Report
Reports from Pakistani-administered Kashmir say the hijackers are expected there in the next few days although a Taleban spokesman declined to say where they were heading.

The Pakistan government has also denied any knowledge of their whereabouts.


Arline cabin The cabin in which the hostages were held

The five hijackers freed nearly 160 hostages from an Indian Airlines plane in Kandahar on Friday where they had been holding them for nearly a week.

The hijack ended after a deal between the Indian Government and the hijackers to free three Kashmiri militants from prison.


End of a crisis
India announces release of three militants
Indian foreign minister flies with militants to Kandahar
Hijackers leave plane with Taleban official
Hostages taken off plane
Hostages flown back to India
Taleban say hijackers have 10 hours to leave
The hijackers, who climbed down from the plane with their weapons, sped off from the airport in waiting vehicles.

They had been refused asylum by the Taleban and were given 10 hours to leave Afghanistan.

The Pakistani authorities denied any knowledge of the hijackers entering or planning to enter Pakistan, but the BBC Islamabad correspondent says the possibility of them going to Kashmir is likely to further increase tension with India.

Reunion in Delhi


Emotional welcome for the crew and passengers in Delhi

The Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, was at Delhi's international airport to receive the returning passengers and crew. Dozens of doctors were on standby and a fleet of ambulances waited outside.

As the passengers emerged, a large crowd began applauding and cheering. Some of the returning hostages kissed the ground, while others touched it.

"I experienced death for seven days. I never thought I would come back," said one passenger, Neelam Champa.

Defending releases

The government has been defending its decision to release the militants.

Prime Minister Vajpayee said in a New Year's broadcast that the government had been able to scale down the hijackers' demands considerably.

"As you are aware, the hijackers had demanded the release of 36 terrorists. We were able to substantially scale down their demand," he said.



"We were able to substantially scale down their demands"
Atal Behari Vajpayee
He said that in dealing with the hijackers, Delhi had been guided by concern for the safety of the passengers, the crew, and the long-term, overall interests of the country.

Mr Vajpayee also called for international action to stamp out such acts.

"Surely the time has come for the world to confront this evil, to act in concert and crush it," he said.

"India shall join hands across nations to rid the world of this crime against humanity."

Jailed cleric free

India said that the freed militants included Maulana Masood Azhar, the Pakistani cleric who had been at the top of the list of jailed activists the hijackers wanted released.

The other two were named as Ahmed Omar Sayed Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar.

All three have connections to a militant movement that seeks to separate Kashmir from India. They were among 36 militants who the five hijackers had demanded freed.

Pakistan was among the countries expressing their pleasure at the end of the hijack. A foreign ministry statement said it was "a matter of satisfaction to the government of Pakistan".

"We have received this news with a sense of relief that the ordeal of the innocent hostages has finally come to an end," it added.

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See also:
01 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Hostage widow unaware of husband's death
01 Jan 00 |  South Asia
India's press asks tough questions
31 Dec 99 |  South Asia
In pictures: The end of the hijack
31 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Hostages recount hijack ordeal
30 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: Testing time for Taleban
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
25 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Profile: Maulana Masood Azhar

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