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The BBC's Kate Adie reports
"Little indication as to what they are determined about"
 real 28k

The BBC's Owen Bennett Jones reports from Kabul
"Some Airport staff have been arrested"
 real 28k

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

Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 19:10 GMT
Motive mystery over hijack

hijack The plane is in its third day at Stansted

The gunmen behind the Stansted hijack have still not issued any demands, police have said, fuelling speculation in London and Kabul that they are seeking asylum.

The suspicions that the hijackers of the Afghan plane - and possibly some passengers - want to stay in the UK follow comments by Ariana airline head Mullah Hamidullah.

He told the Afghan Islamic Press news agency, quoting a steward released during the plane's stopover in Tashkent, that 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 is spending its third day at the London airport after being hijacked during an internal Afghan flight on Sunday. Some 156 people are still on board in deteriorating conditions.

Click here to watch live coverage of the hijack.

An official from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has also arrived at the airport, although spokesman Paul Wilkinson refused to speculate that political asylum was the reason for the hijack.

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
He said the organisation was able to provide information about the situation in Afghanistan but said any requests for asylum would be dealt with by the British authorities.

But he added: "Conditions in Afghanistan are very very bad, very very miserable and people are often driven to extremes in these circumstances - especially when it has been going on so long and no end is in sight."

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.

Essex police assistant chief constable John Broughton said: "No specific demands beyond house-keeping requirements have been made, incredible as that may seem."

If the hijackers do try to claim political asylum in the UK, they may be encouraged by the fates of others involved in similar incidents.

Six members of a gang that forced a hijacked Sudanese jet to Britain in 1996 are still living in the UK on benefits while they await an adjudication on their claims, while a man involved in a 1982 Air Tanzania hijack was granted asylum here after serving two years of a three-year jail sentence.

Under international law the UK is obliged to consider any asylum claim submitted once any potential criminal proceedings are completed.

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
Meanwhile, officers have restored calm to negotiations after the dramatic escape of the pilot and three crew members.

The overnight escape, in which the crew members jumped from a cockpit window and ran to safety at 2300 GMT, 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 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.

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

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

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


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 |  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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