|HOME | NEWS | NIGHTMARE OF FLIGHT 814|
December 28, 1999
Hijackers may want more militants released
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
The Union government today for the first time indicated that the hijackers may not be looking for the release of Maulana Masood Azhar alone. "How do you know that they have not asked for the release of some other people?" asked a senior Union Cabinet minister in an informal chat with newspersons outside Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's home this morning.
The minister admitted that the negotiations with the hijackers could be a long-drawn affair and that all concerned must show patience. "We are aware of the agony of the relatives of the hostages and fully sympathise with them. Prime Minister Vajpayee has taken personal interest in the matter and he is in touch with the Crisis Management Group on a minute-to-minute basis. The media should co-operate with us and help us in this hour of national crisis," he said
The minister criticised the audio-visual media for its insatiable hunger for sound bites. "What do you want me to say? Should I make announcements for you? Who has recruited you? You should understand that there are times when you do not have to thrust your mike in front of each and every minister you see. Why don't you find out whether someone wants to speak or not?" he said angrily.
He denied that the government was already thinking of releasing Maulana Azhar. "It is not as simple as you make it out to be. The prime minister has to weigh the pros and cons of every move very carefully. He will be judged tomorrow by the decision he takes today.''
The minister said it would be wrong to draw a parallel between the hijacking and the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed in 1989. ''The relatives of the passengers on board the hijacked plane are asking us that if five terrorists could be released then for one girl (Rubaiya Sayeed), why can't we release one man for 159 passengers now? But do we have any assurance that after we release Maulana Azhar they (the hijackers) will not ask for release of more hardcore terrorists? How do you know that the passengers would be let off safely?'' he asked.
The minister said those who were critical of the government's handling of the situation at Amritsar, where the hijacked plane had stopped for over 40 minutes, do not have their facts right.
''Nobody knew what was going on inside the plane at that point of time. They (the hijackers) did not let anyone come anywhere near the aircraft nor were they prepared to talk with anyone. We would find out what went wrong, but this is not the time to do that,'' he said.
The minister's contention was backed by United Nations coordinator for Afghanistan Erick de Mul who said the hijackers wanted the release of a large number of people jailed in India. They did not want Maulana Masood Azhar alone, but had now extended their demand to include many other imprisoned terrorists.
NIGHTMARE ON FLIGHT 814
SINGLES | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEATHER | MILLENNIUM | BROADBAND | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK