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Suspected Indian Nationals Responsible

Pakistan Captures Hijackers

All 29 Hostages Were Freed After a Nine Hour Drama

By Amir Zia

H Y D E R A B A D, Pakistan, May 25
Pakistani officials posing as Indians captured three hijackers after a brief shootout early on Monday and freed all 29 hostages to end a nine-hour drama, police said. Only a few shots were fired and no one was injured by the gunfire, a senior police official told reporters. But an army officer and one of the hijackers were injured in scuffles, officials added. The gunmen hijacked a twin-engined Fokker Friendship propeller plane of the state-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) after it took off from Gwadur airport in the southwestern province of Baluchistan on Sunday afternoon. They wanted the pilot to fly to India and believed they had landed at Bhoj airport in India's Rajasthan state, rather than in Hyderabad in Pakistan's southern province of Sindh. Pakistani officials said the plane was intercepted by air force jets and forced to land at Hyderabad. Indian officials refused permission to the Pakistani plane to enter Indian airspace. Security Forces Surrounded Plane When the Fokker landed at Hyderabad, security forces and police surrounded it and parked vehicles on the runway to prevent it from leaving, witnesses said. Armoured personnel carriers and trucks belonging to the army and paramilitary forces, as well as several ambulances, took up positions on the runway of the poorly lit airport, witnesses said. "We posed as Indian officers and engaged them (hijackers) in dialogue," Gurchani said. "We gave them food and told them whatever demand they make will be fulfilled." He said they hijackers made no mention of any protest against a nuclear test in Baluchistan.

Women and Children Released First
Gurchani said the Pakistani officials persuaded the hijackers to release a few women and children among the passengers, then "we decided to carry out our operation." He said one hijacker was captured when he came out of the plane to negotiate with the officials and his two companions were overpowered inside the plane. Officials at Hyderabad airport had earlier put the number of people on board the plane at 43-38 passengers and five crew. But Hyderabad's Senior Superintendent of Police Akhtar Gurchani said after the hijack ended that the plane had been carrying 32 people, including five crew and three hijackers. He said the gunmen demanded $20 million and fuel to fly the plane to New Delhi and were complaining about the alleged neglect of the Baluchistan province.

Tensions Between India and Pakistan
Another official, who did not want to be quoted, said earlier the hijackers were Baluchi dissidents opposed to reported Pakistani plans to carry out a nuclear test in a desert in a Baluchistan desert in retaliation for the five nuclear tests held recently by arch-rival India. The hijacking comes amid high tension between India and Pakistan after New Delhi's tests and warnings to Pakistan of a tough stand over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. A woman passenger on the plane, Zubaida, told Reuters all the passengers believed they had landed in India and were reluctant to leave the aircraft after the hijackers were captured. Another passenger, Shahid Ahmad, said the hijackers carried pistols and claimed to be carrying bombs in their black bags. He described as good their behaviour towards the passengers.

India Destination Desired
The 44-seat plane was hijacked after it took off from Gwadur airport on the Arabian Sea at 5.30 p.m. (1230 GMT) on Sunday for the southern port city of Karachi, airline officials said. State radio said the hijackers wanted to force the plane to fly to India and the official APP news agency initially said the hijackers were suspected to be Indians and there were five of them. Police later said there were only three hijackers, all from the Mekran region of Baluchistan. Very few Indians, apart from diplomats, live in Pakistan. Most Indian visitors come to meet relatives separated by the 1947 partition of the sub-continent at independence from Britain. Baluchistan and Sindh provinces have small populations of Hindus, who are the majority community in India.

Hijackers Denied Permission Into India
Several Indian planes have been hijacked to Pakistan in the past few years by Sikh and Kashmiri dissidents but no Pakistani plane has been hijacked to India. H.S. Khola, India's director general of civil aviation (DGCA), said the hijackers had wanted to enter Indian air space but were denied permission. "They (the hijackers) had told Indian ATC (air traffic control) that they wanted to enter Indian air space. (Indian) Air Force and DGCA said no," Khola said.


Pakistan News Service
Hijackers admit Indian Link

HYDERABAD, May 26 (APP) : The three hijackers of PIA Fokker have
admitted their linkage with Indian agents. According to an official press release
issued here Monday, the SSP Hyderabad district, Akhtar Hassan Gorchani said
that the hijackers of PK-554, who were arrested after a brief operation,
have accepted that they were Indian Agents.
The SSP, who played an active
role during the operation,said that the hijackers have confessed this during the
initial interrogation.

The SSP said that the hijackers informed that they had planned to land the
hijacked plane PK-554 at Jodhpur Airport of India, where an Indian Agent
would receive them.

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