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Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 13:50 GMT
Hijackers 'have not contacted Taleban'

plane and officer A special forces officer patrols near the plane at Stansted

By Rahimullah Yusufzai in Peshawar

The leader of the Taleban movement in Afghanistan, Mullah Mohammad Omar, has told the BBC that so far he has not received any demands from the hijackers of the Afghan Airlines plane now parked at London's Stansted airport.

We will not negotiate with them. We will not accept their demands
Mullah Mohammad Omar

In his first interview since the hijacking of the state-owned Ariana's Boeing 727 plane on Sunday, Mullah Omar said he had heard reports that the hijackers were seeking the release of the opposition military commander, Ismail Khan.

But he said he had no official confirmation of this.

And he said even if such a demand were made, Ismail Khan, who was captured in 1997, would not be freed.

ismail khan Rumours have circulated that the hijackers want Ismail Khan released

Describing Mr Khan as "a murderer of hundreds of Afghans," he said he would be put on trial at an opportune time.

But he made it clear that the Taleban will neither negotiate with the hijackers nor accept their demands.

No deals this time

Mullah Omar was speaking from the Taleban's headquarters in Kandahar, where a hijacked Indian Airlines plane was taken last month.

When asked why the Taleban put pressure on the Indian Government to negotiate with those hijackers but was now refusing to talk to the hijackers of their own plane, Mullah Omar said that they had allowed the Indian aircraft to land in Kandahar at Delhi's request.

He said the Taleban only helped in the negotiations between the Indians and the hijackers when asked to do so by the Indian Government in a bid to save the lives of the passengers.

indian hijacking in kandehar The Taleban helped negotiate an end to the Kandehar hijacking

Condemning terrorism, he said acceptance of the hijackers' demands by his administration would encourage terrorists and trigger more hijackings.

The supreme Taleban leader said he trusted the UK Government with its experience in dealing with hijackings to do everything in its means to save the lives of the hostages on board the Ariana plane.

He said it was up to the UK Government to take appropriate steps to deal with the situation as it was in a better position to assess all available options.

Investigation into smuggling

Mullah Omar also said an investigation had been launched to find out how the hijackers were able to get arms on to the plane at Kabul airport.

He said he did not rule out foreign involvement in planning the hijacking and that it was possible officials at Kabul airport were bribed to deliver arms inside the plane.

He said that certain veiled women passengers may have helped in smuggling arms on board.

He said that the Taleban have now upgraded security at airports in the country and deployed armed guards on all flights.

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See also:
07 Feb 00 |  UK
Hijack talks begin
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Spotlight falls on Afghan commander
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Ariana: Flying in the face of adversity
31 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Indian hijack drama over

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