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January 4, 2000
Hijackers believed to be in PoK
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
The hijackers of the Indian Airlines Flight IC 814 are in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, authoritative sources have confirmed.
The five hijackers arrived at PoK some time on January 1, more than 15 hours after they left Kandahar with an armed escort. The Cabinet Committee on Security has been alerted about their presence in PoK, the sources said.
According to sources in the Indian intelligence agencies, the hijackers, who left Kandahar on the evening of December 31, reached PoK by the afternoon of January 1 at one of the camps of Harkat-ul-Ansar, which masterminded the hijack. PoK has a heavy presence of the Harkat militants, and it is from this area that they traditionally used to sneak into the Kashmir valley. Though infiltration from PoK has become difficult in the recent times, the Harkat continues to operate several training camps there.
According to reliable information gathered by Indian intelligence agencies from Muzzafarabad, the headquarters of the Harkat-ul-Ansar, the five hijackers, first drove down to Quetta through Chaman, on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. They reached Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, late on December 31. Quetta is a stronghold of the Harkat chief Fazlur Rehman Khalil.
The whereabouts of the three freed terrorists -- Maulana Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Mohammed Umar --- has yet not been ascertained independently, but it is speculated that they are along with the hijackers. In PoK, the Harkat has major training camps, the most important of them being at Gilgit. Possibilities are high that the hijackers are in Gilgit itself.
Meanwhile, sources have also confirmed that the Harkat is been behind the attacks in the last two days in the Valley including the bomb blast in Srinagar yesterday which killed 14 people.
Besides the attack in Srinagar on Monday, there have been at least three attacks in the last two days in the Valley, including an attempt to storm a brigade headquarters at the Surankot area of Poonch.
The Army has been called into Srinagar following yesterday's blast. At least three companies of infantry moved into the city to cordon off the market area and to start search operations for the perpetrators of the crime.
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