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The BBC's Peter Biles
"The plane spent four hours on the ground"
 real 28k

Louise Hidalgo, Central Asia correspondent
"Man emerged asking for food and fuel"
 real 28k

The BBC's Peter Biles in Moscow
"Moscow is the third stop in this hijacking drama"
 real 28k

Sunday, 6 February, 2000, 20:19 GMT
Hijack plane may head for UK

A hijacked Afghan plane carrying more than 160 passengers has touched down in Moscow.

Russian security sources are quoted as saying that the Boeing 727 will refuel there, before heading on "to a European capital, possibly London".

Up to 20 men - some armed with pistols, knives and grenades - are reported to have hijacked the plane during a domestic flight in Afghanistan on Sunday.

Flight details
0529 GMT: Plane takes off from Kabul
0543 GMT: Aircraft loses contact with air traffic control
0647 GMT: Lands in Tashkent - refuelled after four-hour wait; 10 passengers released
1240 GMT: Lands in Kazakhstan - demand for more fuel - takes off again
1841 GMT: Plane lands in Moscow
They are reported to be demanding that the Afghan authorities release the former governor of the Afghan province of Herat, Ismail Khan.

However, the Taleban movement in Afghanistan said it knew nothing of the demand.

Earlier, the plane landed in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, where 10 passengers - including women and children - were released, and the plane was refuelled.

It then flew to Aktyubinsk airport in northern Khazakstan - about 1,400km (875 miles) south-east of Moscow, where the hijackers are reported to have demanded food and fuel, before the plane took off again.

The plane is now at Moscow's Sheremetyevo 1 airport.

We are not involved in this Ariana hijacking and condemn it
Anti-Taleban alliance
Diplomatic sources in Uzbekistan said a man emerged from the plane at the airport and threatened to blow up the aircraft unless it was refuelled.

He is reported to have said that he was one of a group of hijackers opposed to the leadership of the Taleban movement.

Afghan dissident

The anti-Taleban alliance said it was not responsible for the hijack, and that an Afghan dissident called Gula Ajha was behind it.

They said he was on board the flight and had been in touch with the Uzbek authorities to demand that the aircraft be resupplied.

"We are not involved in this Ariana hijacking and condemn it," said Abdullah, spokesman for opposition leader Ahmad Shah Masood, who runs the 10% of Afghanistan outside the control of the Taleban movement.

Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane early on Sunday as it left Kabul on its way to the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif 40 minutes away.

It turned up after three hours at Tashkent airport, which was sealed off while the Ariana flight was surrounded by armed troops.

Relations poor

Correspondents say the arrival of the plane in Russia could cause complications.

The Taleban have recently recognised Chechnya as an independent state. Russia is currently trying to crush the rebel Chechen leadership, who the Taleban now recognize as the legitimate government.

Ariana plane Ariana is barred from international flights
Last November, the United Nations imposed sanctions against the ruling Taleban movement in Afghanistan.

The measures included a prohibition on international flights, though Ariana has continued to fly domestic routes.

Just over a month ago, the Taleban helped negotiate an end to a hijack when a plane from Indian Airlines was seized by pro-Kashmiri militants and forced to land in Afghanistan.

The Taleban were praised by the Indian Government and others for the way they helped secure a peaceful resolution.

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See also:
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Flying in the face of adversity
03 Aug 98 |  South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
30 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Indian hijack crisis: Special report
14 Jan 98 |  Asia-Pacific
52 dead in Taleban plane crash
19 Mar 98 |  S/W Asia
Pilgrim plane missing en route to Kabul

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