Afghans Say Hostages Are Lucky

AP, Feb.9, 2000

The Associated Press (Wed 9 Feb 2000) KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- In a war-ravaged country where jobs, money and security are scarce, many Afghans joke that being hijacked and flown to London sounds like a stroke of good fortune, not a nightmarish ordeal.

Millions of Afghans have fled their homeland during more than 20 years of ceaseless warfare, and many more would surely join them if given the opportunity.

"What's happened to those lucky people in London?" asked Sardar Mohammed, who was selling gas on the side of the road in Kabul, the capital. "For just (20 dollars) they got to go all the way to London."

The whole episode was a escape plot by Afghans

Washington Post Foreign Service, Feb.10, 2000
By T. R. Reid

LONDON, Feb. 10 (Thursday) There was still no explanation, however, of the central mystery in the case: Why did the hijackers seize the plane? Despite days of negotiations with the armed men, police said the group made no political demands. The most common line of speculation was that the crime was an elaborate effort by the hijackers--and, possibly, some of the passengers--to escape Afghanistan and seek asylum in Britain.

There has been considerable speculation, both here and in Afghanistan, that the whole episode was a escape plot by Afghans who could not leave their country by any other means. The nation, ruled by a repressive Islamic regime, has been ravaged by years of civil war, and last year the United Nations banned international flights to and from Afghanistan after the regime refused to expel Osama bin Laden, a suspected international terrorist.

The head of Ariana Airlines, Mullah Hamieyllah, told reporters in Afghanistan on Wednesday that he thought about 40 passengers aboard the plane were in league with the hijackers and that the whole group is hoping to be granted asylum in Britain.

Sixty Afghan jet passengers claim asylum

AFP, Feb.10, 2000

LONDON, Feb 10 (AFP) - Sixty passengers aboard the hijacked Afghan jet have claimed asylum in Britain, Home Secretary Jack Straw told parliament on Thursday.

The passengers requested asylum for themselves and for 14 other dependents, Straw said.

"Out of 165 persons (originally) on board, 60 have so far told immigration officers that they wish to apply for asylum, together with an additional 14 dependents," Straw said. "Most of the remainder have yet to make their wishes known."

Hijackers of Ariana plane wanted to flee from Afghanistan

Itar-Tass, Feb.10, 2000

MOSCOW, February 10 (Itar-Tass) - The terrorists, who kidnapped the Ariana airliner, did not put forth any political demands, and they hijacked the plane merely to emigrate from Afghanistan. Most of the passengers are relatives of the hijackers, spokesman for the Afghan Embassy in Moscow Gulam Sahi Ghairat told Itar-Tass.

Media report that the hijackers had made some political demands, the diplomat said, are press canards. The incident with the Boeing liner, he believes, is a new method to get political asylum. Its hijacking may prove to be a precedent for future attempts pursuing the same purpose, he added. "All states must bear this in mind", Gulam Sahi Ghairat stressed.

He is sure that all the people on board the hijacked liner were forced to flee from their country due to the present situation there. "It is comparable to hell and Afghans are ready to risk their lives in order to rid themselves of endless sufferings, to which the Talibs have doomed the peaceful population." Never before, the diplomat stated, "did the country have such an extremely cruel regime, never had it experienced such genocide against its own people".

On behalf of the embassy, Gulam Sahi Ghairat expressed profound gratitude to the Russian special services and foreign ministry, as well as to the personnel of the Sheremetyevo-1 airport for the assistance they gave to the talks with the hijackers, for their efforts to settle the situation in such a way as to save the lives of the airliner's passengers.

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