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Page last updated at 18:08 GMT, Monday, 8 February 2010
Tenth anniversary of hijacked Afghan plane at Stansted
The Boeing 727 Ariana Airlines
The Boeing 727 Ariana Airlines was on an internal flight when it was hijacked

On 6, February 2000 an Afghan airline was hijacked during an internal flight and flown to Stansted Airport.

The plane landed in the early hours of Monday, 7 and was followed by four days of tense negotiations.

On the fifth day all hostages were finally released, with at least 60 claiming political asylum in the UK.

Nine Afghan hijackers were jailed in 2001 for hijacking, false imprisonment, possession of firearms and explosives, but were later acquitted in 2003.

They were able to claim asylum here, whilst many of the hostages also claimed the right to stay in the UK.

Tracking the flight

The plane carrying more than 100 passengers was hijacked shortly after take-off from Kabul.

The plane landed twice in central Asia, where some passengers were released and the plane refuelled.

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

The plane made its way from Moscow heading to Frankfurt before being diverted to the UK.

John Williams was the Head of Public Affairs for Stansted Airport at the time.

A decade on he recalled to BBC Essex how he had been alerted that the plane was bound for the airport.

"We had been watching the track of the aircraft quite carefully because, as the UK's designated hijack airport, as soon as any aircraft is hijacked and heading to Europe, then we watch the situation carefully to see if it's going to London," he said.

"For us the hijack started at midnight on the Monday. I was informed by the duty manager at midnight that the aircraft was going to land at Frankfurt.

"Then at about half-past-one I was woken by the Press Association, who said their sources told him the plane was heading for Stansted and was over the North Sea.

"At that point I called my media team, got in the car and rushed down to the airport."

Prepared

We'd been practicing for this. We'd had a hijack in 1996 with the Sudan Airways plane and that had given us a foretaste of what to do
John Williams, former Head of Public Affairs at Stansted Airport

Police and emergency services were also soon on the scene.

Contact was made with the hijackers who released an initial eight hostages, followed by a ninth man after he complained of breathing difficulties.

John said they were well rehearsed in dealing with such a situation.

"We'd been practicing for this. We'd had a hijack in 1996 with the Sudan Airways plane and that had given us a foretaste of what to do," he said.

Whilst the airport's runways were initially closed, as the hijacked plane stationed away from the main terminal, normal operations were soon able to resume.

"We were very quickly able, with the agreement of the Civil Aviation Authority, to open a part of the runway away from where the hijacked aircraft was," said John.

Stansted Hijack

BBC News reports on Stansted hijack

"We actually started flights again in the afternoon and come the Tuesday I think we were running about 90% of our services."

On the fourth day the captain and three senior crew escaped from the plane, by jumping from a cockpit window and running to safety.

Shortly after midnight on the fifth day 85 people, including 21 children on board came down the steps.

Six hours later on Thursday, 10 February, armed police ringed the jet just before the steps to the plane came down once again.

Another steady stream of people, mainly men, walked away from the jet.

Stansted's fourth hijack was over.

The hijack happened only two months after the Korean Air cargo jet crash in December 1999.




SEE ALSO
Stansted air crash - 10 years on
21 Dec 09 |  History
Hijacker is employed at BA office
16 May 08 |  London
Government appeal over hijackers
11 May 06 |  Politics
Afghans win right to stay in UK
13 Jul 04 |  Essex
Pilots 'shaken' by hijack ordeal
09 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Hijack plane may head for UK
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia

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