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December 28, 1999
Taleban will co-operate in freeing hostages, says Rabbani envoy
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
Followers of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen have well known ties with the Taleban and both have fought together to oust President Burhanuddin Rabbani, Afghanistan's ambassador to India in the previous Rabbani regime, Masood Kahlili, told rediff.com on Tuesday.
The Taleban movement replaced the Rabbani regime on September 27, 1996, in a bloody coup, and established the 'Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan'. The Indian government does not recognise the Taleban government, and it is because of the hijack of Flight 814 that the government has made contact with it.
In an interview, Khalili said the followers of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen have been "co-operating with the Taleban and fighting against us." But the moot question, he said, was, "Why was Afghanistan chosen" for this "pre-planned work"?
Indian intelligence agencies have established that the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen was responsible for the hijack. The HUM, along with the Lashkar-e-Toiba is believed to be in the frontline of the Kashmir valley's insurgency.
The Indian government is aware of the Taleban's relations with the fundamentalist groups, believes Khalili, but he refused to confirm if any hijacker was in Afghanistan fighting the Rabbani regime along with the Taleban.
Khalili said, "Any kind of option is justified" in ending the hijack of the Indian Airlines aircraft. Negotiating is "one of the options for securing the life of 160 people."
The kidnappers, Khalili said, are "fundamentalists", and the hijack was "a barbaric act". He said the Rabbani government has condemned the hijacking as "barbaric and anti-Islamic".
When asked if the Taleban was trustworthy, especially since it has made apparently favourable overtures towards India during the crisis, he said, "I am sure the Indian government knows about it. But everything should be set aside for the lives of 160 people over there in the aircraft."
He said reports received today "were very promising. I hope the delegation from India will arrange for the release of the passengers". Based on statements from the Government of India and media reports, the Taleban authorities "seem to be co-operating", he said.
He said the ousted Rabbani regime is supportive of the Taleban helping the Indian government in securing the lives of the people on board Flight 814 . "Anything being done is justified."
He said it is "very very hard for the Taleban not to co-operate" as the people of Afghanistan "will hate it if any passenger is harmed." The Afghanis will "doubly hate the Taleban" because people there "do not want to see any Indian being killed." The people "will not forgive or forget the Taleban" if they allow any harm to be done to the passengers.
He said the Rabbani government was "consciously watching" the situation, but "our government is far away from there". He refused to confirm if it had offered any assistance to the Indian government in resolving the crisis.
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