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Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 13:09 GMT
The view from Kabul

Relatives wait for news in Kabul

As the hostages on board the Ariana Airlines plane wait for a resolution to the hijacking, their relatives in Afghanistan have been trying to get news of the latest from Stansted.

Ariana Airline officers in Kabul have received many requests for information but officials say they have little to pass on.

People are selling their family houses and land to get themselves to Britain. These people got [there] free
Mohammad Siddiq
But although the situation of the hostages is causing great concern around the world, many Afghans have had a very different response to the hijack.

The BBC's Kate Clark in Kabul says getting hijacked and taken to London does not seem a bad option to many Afghans if it means the hostages get safely off the plane and manage to stay there.

'Missed opportunity'

Afghanistan is a bitterly poor, war-destroyed country and Afghans regularly pay the earnings of a lifetime to shady men who say they will smuggle them into Europe.

Ariana airlines office in Kabul
"People are selling their family houses and land to get themselves to Britain. These people got [there] free," said Mohammad Siddiq.

"They travelled almost around the world by only spending one million Afghanis ($20)," he said.

One man who was supposed to have been on the flight, but who changed his ticket at the last moment, said he was furious that he had missed the opportunity to get to the West.

Another, a shopkeeper, said that had he known the plane was going to be hijacked and flown to London, he would have tried to get himself and his family on board.

Some people in Kabul speculate that the hijackers' plan is not to press for any political demand but rather to secure asylum.

Fighting poverty

Most of the passengers on board Ariana flight 805 belong to villages in northern Afghanistan, scene of heavy fighting between the ruling Taleban and the opposition alliance.

Many Afghans are looking to get out
Road links from the north to Kabul have been badly damaged and alternate routes are blocked in winter by snow-covered passes.

Among the passengers were 35 members of a family travelling to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif to attend a wedding.

One woman said her son, a small businessman, had been taking medicine to Mazar-i-Sharif.

She was weeping: "I've already lost my husband, now my son. I'm all alone now."

But for many Afghans, fighting a desperate battle against grinding poverty, international sanctions and an oppressive regime, the hijacked plane is seen as a ticket to a better life.

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See also:
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Ariana: Flying in the face of adversity
10 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Afghanistan 'facing food crisis'
12 Sep 99 |  South Asia
Taleban attacked over women's rights
15 Aug 99 |  South Asia
UN concern for Afghan civilians
05 Aug 99 |  South Asia
Terrified inhabitants forced to leave
09 Aug 99 |  South Asia
Afghan refugees face uncertain future

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