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The BBC's Jon Brain
"The end was as welcome as it was unexpected"
 real 28k

The BBC's Kate Clarke in Kabul
"There's huge relief here"
 real 28k

The BBC's Diplomatic Editor Brian Hanrahan
"There will be a universal desire for heavy sentences to stop a new bout of hijackings"
 real 28k

Labour MP Robin Corbett
"They have a perfect right to make asylum applications"
 real 28k

Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 10:15 GMT
Hijack ordeal over

The hostages have had their details processed The hostages have had their details processed

The armed hijack of an Afghan plane has ended after a three-day stand-off at Stansted Airport.

The last 65 hostages were released just before 0600GMT. The hijackers surrendered peacefully and police were searching the aircraft.

The Afghan airliner was hijacked on Sunday during an internal flight in Afghanistan and flown across Central Asia and Russia. It has been on the tarmac at Stansted since early Monday.

The hostages came off the Ariana Boeing 727 in two waves. At about 0315 GMT, about 85 people - including all 21 of the children on board - came down the steps.

The drama of the last few days would appear to be at an end but for Essex police there is still a lot of work to do
Assistant Chief Constable Joe Edwards
Armed police ringed the jet and just before 0600GMT the steps to the plane came down again.

Another steady stream of people, mainly men, walked away from the jet. Many had their hands in the air.

Some of those leaving the plane were frisked by armed police, who will be wary of allowing kidnappers to escape justice by claiming to be hostages.

A group of around nine people - believed to be the hijackers - were separated from the rest and taken away on a bus.

It is understood they are being held at a secure police station in Essex.

Countdown to freedom
0300GMT - Two hijackers leave plane for face-to-face meeting with negotiators
0318GMT - Release of 85 passengers
0345GMT - Talks resume, police say
0600GMT Hijack ends with release of remaining passengers
Police have established a reception centre at a nearby hotel for passengers.

Red Cross officials arrived on Wednesday with games, books and soft toys for the children.

It remains unclear what demands the hijackers made and whether any were met.

There has been widespread speculation that the kidnappers were merely seeking political asylum.

But Essex Police have said the hijackers had made "no specific demands".

Essex Police's Assistant Chief Constable Joe Edwards said: "We are checking to make sure the plane is empty but the hijack is now at an end."

He said the police would be ensuring the freed passengers were in a good state of health.

Passenger leaves jet A passenger reaches the bottom of the aircraft's stairs
He said: "The drama of the last few days would appear to be at an end but for Essex police there is still a lot of work to do."

In Afghanistan, the ruling Taleban movement said they were relieved the hijack was over.

They said they appreciated the efforts of the British Government, and the fact that people were being let off the plane was very good news.

On Wednesday the authorities arrested 10 people in charge of security at Kabul airport over the hijacking.

Home Secretary Jack Straw welcomed the conclusion of the hijacking and praised Essex Police for their "excellent work and negotiating skills".

Attention will now turn to the motive behind the hijack.

BBC correspondent Brian Hanrahan said: "It's been a sort of slow motion hijacking. It's as though the people involved in this didn't quite know what to do.

"If they were simply trying to get to Britain you would have expected this mass release would have happened almost immediately on arrival."

An official from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees was at the airport, although spokesman Paul Wilkinson refused to comment on whether political asylum was the reason for the hijack.

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

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Afghan hijack ends: Police briefing 1100 GMT

See also:
10 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Afghan relief at hijack resolution
10 Feb 00 |  UK
Hijack timetable
10 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Hijackers 'should be deported'
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Taleban arrests 10 over hijack
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Pilots criticised for fleeing
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Ariana: Flying in the face of adversity

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