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The BBC's Kate Clark reports
"The Taleban are now taking airport security seriously"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 13:48 GMT
Taleban arrests over hijack

Armed soldiers have taken up positions at Kabul airport

Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement has arrested 10 people with responsibility for security at Kabul airport over the hijacking of the Ariana Airlines plane to Britain.

Employees of the state airline told the BBC that four female security officers were among those detained.

Reports from Kabul say the Taleban authorities suspect that women passengers may have smuggled weapons on board the plane.

The head of Ariana Airlines, Mullah Hamidullah, has meanwhile told the BBC's Pashto service that he believes some of the passengers could be linked to the hijackers.

He said he had spoken to the pilot who had managed to escape from the aircraft, and had been told that some women on board were seen "freely talking" to the hijackers.

'Passengers may have links with hijackers'
This, he said, indicated that they might know the hijackers and be part of a plot to seek asylum in Britain.

"It seems to us now that there is a big group including about 40 women, men and children on board, who were travelling to Mazar-i-Sharif pretending to attend a wedding there," he is quoted as saying by the Afghan Islamic Press news agency in Pakistan.

"It is possible that these people were interested in going to London," he added.

Lax security

The BBC's Kate Clark in Kabul says security has been tightened since the hijack, and armed men have taken up positions at the airport.

People are being rigorously checked, and those who have no business at the airport are being turned away.

Security at the airport is fairly basic, with no metal detectors or x-ray machines.

People have to be frisked by hand to check if they are carrying any weapons.

But reports suggest that women often escape intensive searches because of the Taleban's brand of orthodox Islam, which does not permit contact between women and strangers.

Since Afghanistan does not have a history of hijacking, most searches focus on passengers' luggage to see if it contains any un-Islamic material.

Ariana officials say that until now, the only security threat at Kabul airport has been from rocket attacks.

The Boeing-727 took off on what was scheduled to be an internal flight to Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

The hijackers freed about 20 people during two stopovers in central Asia and in Moscow.

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See also:
07 Feb 00 |  South Asia
The view from Kabul
08 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Hijackers 'have not contacted Taleban'
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Ariana: Flying in the face of adversity
07 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Analysis: Who are the hijackers?
07 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Anxious wait for Afghan relatives

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