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Monday, 17 January, 2000, 03:02 GMT
India hunts for Bangladesh hijack 'plotters'

Sheikh Mujib's home is now a museum to his memory


India's aircraft security authorities are searching for eight Afghan nationals they accuse of planning to hijack a Bangladeshi airliner.

An official of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security told the BBC the men were thought to be in eastern India.

He said intelligence agencies believed the Afghans were seeking the release of three leaders of a coup in neighbouring Bangladesh in 1975, in which the founding president, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was assassinated.

In Bangladesh itself, three airline pilots have been dismissed for alleged involvement in a plot to try to free four men sentenced to death for killing Sheikh Mujib.

The three pilots were reportedly suspected of plotting to hijack a plane.

The four former military officers were only brought to justice after Sheikh Mujib's daughter, Sheikh Hasina, was elected prime minister in 1996

Hijack alert

The Indian and Bangladeshi actions follow a hijack alert last Wednesday when Indian authorities detained 11 passengers from a Bangladesh-Biman flight following an intelligence warning of a possible hijack attempt.

All the detainees were released a few hours later and reported to have been Muslim pilgrims on their way to a prayer meeting in Bangladesh.


Supporters of Sheikh Mujib demonstrate in Dhaka

Bangladeshi officials say they have nonetheless stepped up security on all flights.

Coming so soon after the hijacking of an Indian airliner - which ended when Indian authorities released several Kashmiri separatist militants - the incident has raised fears that a similar attempt might be made against a Bangladeshi airliner.

The recent military takeover in Pakistan has heightened security concerns in Bangladesh.

There have been no overt rumblings of discontent from the Bangladeshi armed forces, but Bangladeshis are mindful that since independence there have been three coups, 19 failed coup attempts and three presidents have been murdered.

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See also:
11 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Suspected Bangladesh hijackers arrested
08 Nov 98 |  South Asia
Death for Bangladesh coup plotters
08 Nov 98 |  South Asia
Analysis: The controversy never dies

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