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Life on an hijacked Indian Airlines plane.

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    Life on an hijacked Indian Airlines plane.

    Life for the 155 people held hostage on board Indian Airlines Flight 814 is better now, but it had been miserable for the past five days.
    The passengers had been blindfolded, with the shades on the jet’s windows pulled down.
    Worse, the smell of human waste filled the plane’s lavatories after five days. They were confined to the narrow airplane seat they sat in.
    Around them, they heard the moans and cries of their fellow hostages. And they had to eat whatever was given to them.
    Passengers inside have reportedly been suffering from cramps. They are certainly suffering from anxiety. Those who have spoken to the five or six hijackers say their voices show tension and stress.
    But on Tuesday, Taliban soldiers who boarded the aircraft on Tuesday to clean it said conditions appear to have improved slightly. Toilets were flushed and the heaps of garbage removed, said a Taliban soldier who asked not to be identified.
    Hijackers also allowed the plane’s rear door to be opened on for ventilation.
    Passengers, apparently allowed to remove the blindfolds they were forced to wear, were more relaxed, playing chess and cards or listening to music from the in-flight entertainment system and personal stereos, said one aviation official who declined to be identified.
    Eating and sleeping were the main ways the hostages while away the hours, he said.
    By his account, corroborated by Indian and Taliban officials, the hostages now sit where they want instead of being confined to alternate rows in the rear of the plane.
    Women, Children Kept on Plane
    The hijack drama of Indian Airlines Flight 814 began last Friday when a group of hijackers who object to Indian control in parts of Kashmir commandeered the jet as it left Kathmandu, Nepal, en route to New Delhi, India.
    It has been parked on a runway at the Kandahar airport in Afghanistan since Saturday.
    Reports have varied as to whether the hijackers have knives or more deadly weapons. They have let 28 passengers go — at least one for health reasons — and killed at least one, whose body they also released.
    “We know there are some people who are in bad condition,” said Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, foreign minister for the Taliban, Afghanistan’s ruling party. But he didn’t know the extent or type of illness. “We have asked them to let the sick, the women and children off the plane, but they have refused.”

    Right Attitude Needed
    Experts familiar with hostage situations say that life inside the airplane probably is harsh, restrictive and, at times, terrifying. “The hostages are suffering, but in the midst of this suffering, hopefully, they have intuitively adopted the right kind of attitude toward the situation that will allow them to emerge whenever this ordeal is over without suffering too much harm,” Nudell said.
    The passengers are probably confined to their seats, and they are believed to have their eyes covered. “It sounds like a situation where people really can’t do anything. They should think about other things, take naps and do whatever they can to make the time pass,” he said.
    At least the Indian Airlines passengers have some breathing room. The Airbus 300 traditionally seats 250 and is a wide-bodied aircraft with two aisles. The 160 people aboard have some room.