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December 30, 1999
Hijack is remote controlled: intelligence agencies
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
Six hijackers aboard Indian Airlines flight IC 814 are well motivated mercenaries executing a planned action which, in all probability, is being controlled in real time from some unknown destination deploying hi-tech gadgets, sources in the intelligence agencies believe.
Indications are that besides the usual suspect -- Pakistan's Inter Service Intelligence -- Chhota Shakeel, a Dawood lieutenant who has a wide network in Nepal, is providing logistic support to the operation.
According to information gathered from within India and outside by intelligence agencies, the hijackers seem to be merely executing a plan "which is well planned and executed to the satisfaction of someone else," sources said.
The fact that the mercenaries are in no hurry to find a solution to the crisis is a clear indication that they have very strong backing. "They seem very confident of their future, assured of a safe passage," reliable intelligence sources said.
"Normally, the hijackers make it a point to raise the issue of their political asylum as soon as negotiations begin. But these six don't seem bothered about it. Besides, the negotiations are progressing very slow, and in the direction that they (the hijackers) want," sources said.
Sources said reconstruction of the entire hijack drama reveals that there is meticulous planning involved and also that the "real executioners" are somewhere, far away from Kandahar. Sources pointed out that the hijackers are believed to be in possession of some roving mobile phones and "we think they even have a satellite phone."
Indications are that the hijackers also used the Internet at Amritsar, Lahore or Dubai. At one of these airports, they communicated with someone outside the airport on their laptop.
Nepalese police have confirmed that the hijackers had made several phone calls to Pakistan during their stay at Kathmandu.
Several developments from the moment the plane took off from Kathmandu have strengthened this theory. A senior official from the Pakistan embassy in Kathmandu was present at the airport a couple of hours before the IA plane took off, sources claim.
When plane landed at Amritsar, the Air Traffic Control tower there received a phone call from a man claiming to be the joint secretary in home ministry. Identifying himself as G Lal, the man ordered that the plane be refuelled immediately. It is believed that someone on ground was alerted by the hijackers about the shortage of fuel in the plane. And this contact, most probably within India, immediately contacted the airport in the guise of a joint secretary.
Reports are that some people contacted the hijackers when the plane was at Lahore and passed on instructions. Though this could not be confirmed, there are indications that the hijackers received orders to fly out of Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the armed forces, which have been asked to gear up their intelligence apparatus to keep a tab on the hijack crisis, have received several intercepts between active militants, strengthening suspicion of ISI's involvement. rediff.com has already reported about one such intercept from the Valley, which has been forwarded to the Cabinet Committee on Security.
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