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December 27, 1999
Hijackers not to harm passengers till Indian team arrives
The hijackers of Indian Airlines' Flight 814 will not harm the passengers till a high-level Indian team reaches Kandahar for negotiations.
Earlier the hijackers had extended their deadline by three hours, threatening to kill the passengers if their demands are not conceded by 1700 hours today.
In case the hijackers start attacking the passengers, the Taliban regime would storm the aircraft and rescue the passengers, its Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutakel has told a news agency.
The hijackers have agreed to release another passenger, provided an aeronautical engineer is sent to the cockpit.
At 1350 hours, a Kandahar airport official told rediff.com that all the passengers were having their lunch. He, however, did not say whether the passengers were aware of the deadline.
The official told rediff.com that the hijackers informed them of the deadline at 0940 hours Afghan time (1050 IST) .
The official also said that India should rush supplies of food and beverages. He said the Taleban was unable to take care of the requirements of the passengers.
The official also requested rediff.com to relay the Afghanistan civil aviation minister's request to the Indian government. ''Please ask your government to send aeronautical engineers to repair the plane. Rush your external affairs minister here,'' the minister seems to have said.
The hijackers stopped talking to the officials after issuing the ultimatum.
UN official Erik de Mul told the BBC, "The hijackers have threatened they will start killing the passengers if the Indian government does not take concrete steps [to meet their demands]."
Urging the world "to do something", Airbus A300's pilot Captain D Saran had said the hijackers would start killing the hostages after the deadline expires, de Mul told CNN.
He quoted the captain as saying the passengers were in ''bad'' mental and physical condition.
Earlier, the hijackers agreed to leave Afghanistan following an ultimatum - ''leave the country or surrender'' -- from the ruling Taliban.
However, the aircraft is unable to take off due to a technical problem even as the conditions inside are deteriorating fast.
Kandahar airport official Mohammad Khiber told rediff.com that the aircraft's engine oil has been changed.
He said they were unable to refuel the plane due to a leak in its fuel tank.
A pilot in Bombay told rediff.com yesterday that the Airbus 300, which has made eight take-offs and landings these last three days, may be in urgent need of oil to lubricate its engines.
The ruling Taleban authorities have told BBC that the aircraft would leave Afghanistan after the problem is fixed.
Quoting Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, BBC said that arrangements were being made for engineers to check the plane.
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