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January 1, 2000
A midnight call and an impending climax
a Special Correspondent in Delhi
It could have been straight out of a Coppola movie --- the swiftness and secrecy with which the move was executed. Day seven of the hijack drama involving Indian Airlines Flight 814 had yielded nothing concrete. The government's spiel was that negotiations were inching forward and that it would be taken up again the next morning. As the 154 passengers and crew members held hostage prepared to endure another freezing Kandahar night their relatives and the nation at large waited in fearful suspense for what the dawn might bring.
But hundreds of miles away in Kashmir things were already heading towards a climax. Around midnight on Thursday top officials in Srinagar were alerted by a call from the highest authorities in Delhi --- two militants lodged in a Srinagar jail were to be immediately shifted to Jammu. The J&K authorities lost no time in responding -- Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar, the former chief commander of Al-Umar, and Abdul Aziz Dar alias Gen Moosa, were bundled into a couple of police Gypsies, and heavily escorted, the convoy left the jail premises by about 0230 IST, headed for Jammu.
Meanwhile, in Jammu's Kotbalwal jail, another inmate had been woken up by the authorities and ordered to get ready to move out --- Maulana Masood Azhar, general secretary of the Harkat-ul -Ansar, too was part of the deal worked out by Delhi with the hijackers. Early morning on Friday some top central officials arrived in Jammu by a special plane. They escorted Masood and Zargar back to the national capital in the same aircraft. For some reason Moosa was left behind in Jammu. He was later shifted to the cells in the barracks of the counter intelligence department.
The central officials and the state authorities had detailed meetings before the two top militants were flown to Delhi. Immediately after the militants left Jammu the situation was reviewed at a high level meeting at Raj Bhavan. The meeting of the Unified Command was chaired by state Governor G C Saxena. Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, the chief secretary, the director general of police and senior army and paramilitary officers attended the meeting.
NIGHTMARE OF FLIGHT 814
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