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Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 18:05 GMT
Afghanistan seeks return of plane

airport There is increased security at Kabul airport

The Afghan authorities have thanked the British government for resolving the hijack peacefully, and asked for co-operation in returning the airliner, its passengers and crew.

"We greatly appreciate the endeavours by the British authorities in bringing the hijacking to a peaceful conclusion," said Mawlawi Hamidullah, head of the Ariana airline.

Taleban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil said the Ariana Airlines plane, the passengers and crew, should be returned to Afghanistan.

He said the hijackers should be dealt with according to British or international law.

The foreign minister reaffirmed his government's belief that the hijackers had connections with Afghan opposition forces, but said there was no question of asking for their extradition.

Kabul airport security

At Kabul airport, security has been stepped up since the hijack, and the government has been carrying out an investigation to discover how the hijackers managed to smuggle guns, grenades and daggers on board the plane.

plane The Taleban did not take part in negotiations
A total of 10 airport staff, including four female security officers, have been arrested.

There were no X-ray machines or security equipment of any kind at the airport.

The Taleban's supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has said armed commandos will be on all future Ariana flights.

Missing passengers

News has meanwhile emerged about the whereabouts of some of the passengers who were released from the hijacked plane in Central Asia and Moscow.

The international committee of the Red Cross in Kabul said it had helped facilitate the return of the 10 people who were released from the plane in Uzbekistan.

woman Hostage being led to safety
They were taken to Mazar-e-Sharif, the intended original destination of the hijacked plane, and met by the Taleban authorities there.

Three passengers who got off the plane in Kazakhstan are returning to Afghanistan by rail.

The hostages who were allowed to disembark in Moscow are believed to be still there. Some are said to be receiving medical treatment.

There was widespread relief in the Afghan capital at the peaceful resolution of the hijack.

I am extremely sorry that I was not on the plane myself
Kabul resident
"The hostages are lucky because they are in Britain, though they underwent some ordeal, but it is not comparable to the agonies that they experienced over the past 22 years in Afghanistan." said one Kabul resident.

"I am extremely sorry I was not on the plane myself - otherwise I would have asked the British to let me stay in their homeland," said another.

Relief at Ariana

At the war-damaged Ariana airline office in the centre of Kabul, Mohammed Daoud Sharafi knelt in prayer after being told that everyone on board the plane was safe.

"This is good news, happy news for our staff and all the people of Afghanistan," he said.

Ariana Airlines has an ageing fleet of four Boeing 727s and five Russian-made Antonov passenger aircraft.

Last November, UN sanctions banned all international flights by the airline.

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See also:
10 Feb 00 |  UK
Hijack hostages plead for asylum
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Taleban arrests 10 over hijack
09 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Pilots 'shaken' by hijack ordeal
07 Feb 00 |  UK
How to negotiate with hijackers
09 Feb 00 |  UK
The terror of hijack ordeal
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Pilots criticised for fleeing
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Calm restored on hijack plane
07 Feb 00 |  South Asia
The view from Kabul
07 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Analysis: Who are the hijackers?
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Ariana: Flying in the face of adversity

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