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The BBC's Alva McNichol at Stansted Airport
describes the scene as the plane lands
 real 28k

The BBC's Peter Biles
"After four hours on the ground the plane was airborne again"
 real 28k

Aviation expert Chris Yates
"Going to the UK may be their biggest mistake"
 real 28k

Monday, 7 February, 2000, 02:19 GMT
Hijack plane lands in UK

A hijacked Afghan plane with more than 140 people on board has landed at Stansted Airport in the UK after leaving Moscow.

A Russian soldier guards the airport gate in Moscow
It is the latest stop for the hostages who spent four hours on the ground in Moscow where 10 were released.

A spokesman for Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), said the hijackers had called for an air corridor towards Western Europe to be opened, and demanded European flight maps, before leaving Moscow's Sheremetyevo 1 airport.

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
2220 GMT Plane leaves Moscow
The plane was hijacked by about six men armed with pistols and grenades during an internal flight from the Afghan capital, Kabul, to the city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Sunday.

During the day, the aircraft landed twice in Central Asia - first in Uzbekistan and then in Kazakhstan where at least 10 passengers, including women and children, were released, and the plane was refuelled.

Hijackers' demands

The hijackers have so far made no demands, though according to one report, they are seeking the release of Ismail Khan, a military commander of the anti-Taleban alliance.

Opposition forces in Afghanistan led by commander Ahmed Shah Massoud have denied all involvement in the hijacking, saying earlier that a dissident called Gula Ajha was responsible.

We are not involved in this Ariana hijacking and condemn it
Anti-Taleban alliance
According to Taleban and Afghan aviation estimates, the plane left Kabul with 186 people on board - 21 children, 11 infants, 140 adults and 14 all-male crew.

'No contact'

Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, the Taleban's minister for civil aviation and tourism, said his government had had no contact with the hijackers and had no clue as to their identity.

Ariana plane Ariana is barred from international flights
Ariana is banned from flying abroad by UN sanctions which have also been imposed against the Taleban movement for its refusal to extradite or expel Saudi-born dissident, Osama bin Laden. The Taleban in turn accuses Moscow of arming and training anti-Taleban fighters.

Russia and central Asian states including Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan suspect the Taleban of backing rebels involved in the Chechen conflict and armed forays last year into central Asian territory.

Seventh envoy

The hijack also comes at a time when the new United Nations special envoy to Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, is due to meet the Taleban authorities in Afghanistan.

Mr Vendrell is the seventh envoy in 11 years to try to bring peace to Afghanistan.

His predecessor, Lakhdar Brahimi, resigned last October, saying he was bitterly disappointed with the negative attitude of the warring factions.

At the end of last year, a hijacked Indian Airlines Airbus was held at Kandahar in Afghanistan for eight days.

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
Spotlight falls on Afghan commander
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Flying in the face of adversity
03 Aug 98 |  South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Hijack plane airborne again
22 Dec 99 |  UK
Stansted flying high

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