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August 6, 2000
Security alert against hijack attempts
Onkar Singh in Srinagar
Following reports from intelligence agencies, the Centre has sounded an alert against a possible hijack attempt by militant groups opposed to the Hizbul Mujahideen's talks with the Government of India.
Security has been tightened not just at the Srinagar, Jammu and Leh airports, but also in Delhi and Chandigarh.
A top Union home ministry official confirmed apprehensions that some militant group opposed to the peace talks could try to sabotage the process through various means, including a hijack.
In December 1999, a band of extremists supported by Pakistan had hijacked an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to Delhi and secured the release of some terrorists, including separatist ideologue Masood Azhar.
"We cannot take any chances," the official said.
On Saturday, militants opposed to the peace process hurled grenades at the security forces in downtown Srinagar and opened fire on a post manned by the Jammu & Kashmir police.
Barring a few incidents, the valley has been calm since the massacre on the night of August 1 and people have begun to feel that if the talks do succeed, the scenario may even change for the better.
"The killings on the night of August 1 vitiated the atmosphere. But I am positive that something will come out of this development. After all, both the Government of India and the Hizb have staked their reputations," said a senior National Conference official.
Former MP Saifuddin Soz, who returned to the valley from New Delhi on Sunday morning, felt there was no cause for concern about the August 8 deadline set by Hizb chief Syed Salah-ud-Din to include Pakistan in the talks. The Hizb is bound to extend it, he said. "Having started the talks they have gone too far to come out of it without any solution," he told rediff.com
All-Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Abdul Ghani Bhatt refused to comment on the developments. "Whatever I had to say I have said. In the last two days there has been practically nothing to talk about. I may speak to the media tomorrow," he said.
While Soz agreed with one-time leader Farooq Abdullah's assessment that the Hurriyat is feeling marginalised, Bhatt ridiculed both Soz and the chief minister. "We have our own point of view. We do feel that the Government of India should have also talked to us. But this does not mean we are feeling marginalised."
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