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Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 10:38 GMT
Hostage widow unaware of husband's death

Relatives Rupin's father (centre) is comforted by Rachna's relatives

National sympathy in India for the widow of the sole casualty in the Indian Airlines hijacking drama grew on Saturday amid reports that she was not even aware her husband had died.

Hijack Special Report
The couple, who were married on 3 December, were returning from a honeymoon in Kathmandu when the flight was hijacked on 24 December.

Rachna Katayal has now returned to Delhi with the other released passengers, but she is still reportedly unaware that her husband Rupin, 25, was stabbed by the hijackers - apparently for refusing to keep on his blindfold - and his body removed from the plane during a refuelling stop in Dubai.

For the next six days, as the plane sat on a runway in southern Afghanistan, Rachna simply believed that her husband had been made to sit in another part of the plane.

Racha Katayal Rachna returns to Delhi after her ordeal

On the third day of the hijacking, a request from the Taleban authorities in Kandahar to let her leave the plane was refused by her captors.

Very bad shape

A doctor who attended her after her release painted a bleak picture of her condition.

"She's in very bad shape. Rachna doesn't recall anything and is only searching for her husband everywhere," Dr RK Sinha said.

"The girl still does not know anything," Rupin's uncle Kanwal Katyal was quoted as saying by the Times of India after Rachna returned to Delhi with the rest of the freed passengers.

"We are trying to prepare her mentally, before breaking the news to her."

Her parents were also reported to be in shock.

"They are still very quiet. We are shattered, completely broken up just thinking about the poor girl. After all they have lost their son-in-law," said one of Rachna's cousins.

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See also:
31 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Hostages recount hijack ordeal
31 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Indian hijack drama over
31 Dec 99 |  South Asia
In pictures: The end of the hijack
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Analysis: Testing time for Taleban
29 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Hijackers drop two demands
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Analysis: India warms to the Taleban
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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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