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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, 03:03 GMT
Hijack plane lands in London

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

It is the latest stop for the hostages who spent four hours on the ground at Moscow's Sheremetyevo 1 airport, where 10 were released.

Hundreds of police and security officers have been placed on standby as British authorities prepare to open negotiations with the hijackers.

Emergency service vehicles were scrambled as the plane touched down shortly after 0200 GMT, escorting the jet to a secure area to the north of the airport, about half a mile away from the main terminals.

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
0202 GMT Lands in UK at Stansted airport
The airport, which has been the scene of several similar incidents in the past, has well-rehearsed procedures for dealing with hijack situations.

Kim White, spokeswoman for Essex Police, said contingency measures had been put into operation shortly after the plane left Moscow.

"The plane will now be in the process of being isolated somewhere on the airport ground so we can open the negotiations," she said.

"Obviously we were aware the moment it took off from Moscow that it may be heading to Britain so we had been on standby for the last few hours.

"We are very well prepared for this type of event and hope to open up peaceful negotiations shortly."

Minimal disruption

Ms White added that the established procedures should allow the airport to continue to operate with minimal disruption to normal operations.

"Although Stansted is one of the largest airports in London, it is one in which we can contain a hijack fairly easily in comparison with Heathrow and Gatwick. It is easy to keep this type of airport open for other passengers."

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.

A UK Home Office spokeswoman said: "The police will be trying to make some sort of contact with the hijackers and begin negotiation to establish what they want.

"Obviously, we are hoping for a peaceful solution to this situation. At this stage, we are not aware of any demands or requests from those on board the aircraft."

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.

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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?
22 Dec 99 |  UK
Stansted flying high
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Hijack plane airborne again

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