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The BBC's Kate Clark reports from Kabul
"Another hijacking won't happen here"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jane Bennett Powell
"The night's developments have brought no firm information about what the hijackers want"
 real 28k

The BBC's Robert Hall reports
"The tension was clear as communications links were cut"
 real 28k

Assistant Chief Constable Joe Edwards
"The escape of these men did upset the calm atmosphere"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 13:51 GMT
Calm restored on hijack plane

hijack The plane is in its third day at Stansted

Police negotiators have restored calm on a hijacked Afghan plane after the dramatic escape of the pilot and three crew members.

The overnight escape caused tension but the situation has returned to normal, police said.

They are questioning the four, hoping to gain fresh information on conditions inside. Police have already established that the hijackers are carrying handguns.

The incident came amid growing speculation that the motive for the hijack is an attempt to gain asylum in the UK.

Essex Police assistant chief constable John Broughton confirmed on Wednesday the hijackers had made "no specific demands beyond house-keeping requirements".

Click here to watch live coverage of the hijack.

The familiar routine of recent days has now been re-established, with hot food and medical supplies being delivered to the plane, in a quiet corner of Stansted Airport, near London.

The crew members jumped from a cockpit window and ran to safety at 2300 GMT on Tuesday.

There was a period when it was less calm during the early hours of today, but we have now been able to return to the previous situation
Assistant Chief Constable Joe Edwards
It is thought they climbed down a rope ladder behind the backs of their armed captors in what police described as a "spontaneous escape".

Four hours later a flight attendant was pushed down the steps. He was treated for a minor cut on his forehead.

It was several minutes before the escape was noticed by the hijackers and negotiators said they had to work hard to restore calm.

Police said they were unable to speak to the hijackers at all for about an hour afterwards.

At a news conference on Wednesday morning, Assistant Chief Constable Joe Edwards said: "There has obviously been tiredness and some frustration among those on board.

"Negotiations took place throughout the night, very sensitive negotiations, and the situation appears to be a lot more settled now.

"Up until last night everything had been conducted in a very calm and businesslike manner.

The four escaped from a cockpit window (second left)
"There was a period when it was less calm during the early hours of today but we have now been able to return to the previous situation."

Meanwhile, Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement has arrested 10 people in charge of security at Kabul airport over the hijacking.

Up to 10 armed men and 156 hostages remain on the plane, which arrived at Stansted on Monday morning. The hijackers' demands are not known.

Mr Edwards said the four escapees were the 54-year-old captain, the 50-year-old second captain, the 43-year-old first officer and the 54-year-old flight engineer.

All four are believed to be of Afghan nationality. A further nine crew remain on the jet, although it is not clear if any of them can fly the plane.

Seeking asylum

An official from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has arrived at the airport, fuelling speculation that an attempt to seek asylum in the UK is the reason behind the hijack.

In all, 14 people have left the plane since it landed in the UK.

Flight details
0529 GMT Sunday: 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 Monday: Lands in UK at Stansted airport
Eman Omar, a solicitor who represented a gang responsible for Britain's last hijack crisis, in 1996, said she believed the Stansted group were "highly likely" to be seeking asylum in the UK.

This has further been supported by reports from the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) news agency.

Airline head Mullah Hamidullah, quoting an Ariana airline steward released in a stopover in Tashkent, told AIP there appeared to be a large group on the aircraft of up to 40 men, women and children, who could be involved in an attempt to get political asylum.

The Boeing 727 was hijacked during an internal Afghan flight on Sunday. It landed twice in Central Asia, where at least 10 passengers were released and the plane refuelled.

Several hours later, it stopped in Moscow, where another 10 passengers were freed.


Pilots criticised for fleeing
Hostages 'face horrific ordeal'
Who are the hijackers?
Negotiating with hijackers
Stansted's hijack history

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See also:
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Taleban arrests 10 over hijack
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Pilots criticised for fleeing
09 Feb 00 |  UK
The terror of hijack ordeal
07 Feb 00 |  South Asia
The view from Kabul
08 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Hijackers 'have not contacted Taleban'
07 Feb 00 |  UK
How to negotiate with hijackers
07 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Analysis: Who are the hijackers?
07 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Anxious wait for Afghan relatives
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Ariana: Flying in the face of adversity

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