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December 31, 1999
Hijackers headed for Pakistan: Taleban
Aseem Chhabra in New York
The hijackers of Indian Airlines Flight 814 and their three compatriots -- whom Indian released today -- have already started their journey and are reportedly heading towards Pakistan.
"They (the hijackers) have started their journey under the monitoring of our people (the Taleban). Ultimately, their destination would be Pakistan," Taleban representative in the United States Hakim Abdul Mujahid told rediff.com this morning.
"It is not exactly known where they are headed, but since no other country wants them, the only guess is that they are headed towards Pakistan," he said.
Mujahid said that after consultations between the governments of India, Afghanistan, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kandahar, it was realised that no country would want to give refuge to the hijackers.
The Taleban gave the hijackers 10 hours to leave Afghanistan after the ICRC also refused to take charge of the hijackers.
"There is no way that we want the hijackers or the freed people to be in Afghanistan," he said, adding that he did not think the hijackers had officially asked to be "sent" to Pakistan.
"Since some of them (the hijackers) are Pakistani, one can guess that they would go to Pakistan," he added.
Mujahid said that the Taleban's main priority was that the hostages be released and that no "human catastrophe happened on the soil of Afghanistan."
He said the Taleban succeeded in overcoming all the obstacles peacefully.
"With the world community we have proved that we are against all kinds of terrorism in any shape or any form with any motive," he said. "Whether the motives are bad or good, we are against terrorism."
On the issue of terrorism Mujahid differentiated between the hijackers of the Indian Airlines plane and the Saudi dissident Osmana bin Laden, who is said to be in Afghanistan and is wanted by the United States in connection with last year's bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
"The case of Osmana bin Laden is totally different," he said. "He was a mujahid in Afghanistan, working in the country for more than 15 years and there was no objection from any country at that time. We didn't invite him in Afghanistan. We got this legacy from the previous government, which the world community still recognises."
"We told Osmana bin Laden not to use the soil of Afghanistan against any country, any national, any nation and so far has obeyed our orders," Mujahid said. "So far no evidence had been provided to us that he is or was involved in any terrorist activity. So therefore, he lives in Afghanistan as a refugee, as a human being, where he has the basic human rights."
Mujahid said during the last hours of the hijacking crisis, there was some contact and conversations between Jaswant Singh, the Indian external affairs minister, and his Afghan counterpart, Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil. However, he could not say whether the discussions related to India's relationship with the Taleban movement.
"I don't think it was the right time to discuss issues of recognition," he added.
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