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'We Are All Dying...' -Transcript of Hijack Pilot

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    'We Are All Dying...' -Transcript of Hijack Pilot

    'We Are All Dying...' -Transcript of Hijack Pilot

    NEW DELHI (Reuters) - ``We are all dying now... we are going to take off from here,'' the pilot of the hijacked Indian Airlines jet said on Christmas Eve in a last, desperate message to the control tower before leaving Indian soil.

    A transcript of Captain Devi Sharan's exchange with the control tower in the northern city of Amritsar, published by Indian newspapers on Thursday, brought home the terror on Flight IC-814 after it was commandeered on a run from Kathmandu to New Delhi.

    ``They (hijackers) want fuel tanker. They have everything. Revolvers, AK-47, grenades, everything in, everything open. They want refueling is immediately done,'' Sharan was quoted as saying.

    ``They have only five minutes. Please send it fast. Please send within five minutes otherwise they are going to blow one of us.''

    The transcripts showed that air traffic control officials at Amritsar initially said they were ``negotiating through the Delhi area,'' and later agreed to the refueling demand as the threats grew more shrill.

    The plane flew on from Amritsar to Lahore in Pakistan where it refueled and then landed in a military airfield near Dubai, where 27 mostly women and children passengers and the body of one man who had been stabbed to death were released.

    The Airbus-300 took off again on Christmas Day and landed at Kandahar airport in southern Afghanistan, where it has been parked with at least 154 hostages aboard ever since.

    The five or six hijackers have demanded the release of 36 Kashmiri militants from Indian prisons in exchange for freeing the hostages.

    Indian security analysts, commentators and relatives of the hostages have said that India committed a blunder when it allowed the plane to fly out of Amritsar.

    New Delhi has no diplomatic ties with the Taliban movement that controls Afghanistan and, for that reason, its options on ending the crisis are severely limited.

    Analysts and domestic media have criticized India's security establishment for being too slow to act while the plane was still on Indian soil.

    But the transcript of the conversation during the 48-minute stopover in Amritsar suggested that time was too short.

    ``They have started killing now. Where is oh... where is the bowser (refueling tanker) now? Please tell us,'' Sharan said. ''He has already killed a passenger now. Why don't you understand?''

    At one point, the pilot switching to Hindi apparently at the demand of the hijackers, quoted the captors as saying: ``If anyone tries to act smart, we will kill all of them.''

    Washington Post Editorial

    India's dilemma
    The grim reality of terrorism has been facing India since the hijacking of India Airlines Flight 814 on Christmas Eve. How it is dealt with will be a defining moment for the Indian government. Giving in to the demands of the hijackers, who have connections both to Kashmir forces and to the Taleban militia of Afghanistan, could bring on a flood of similar acts of terrorism. Defying them and losing the suffering 155 hostages aboard the plane would precipitate a massive crisis at home. This is not a choice to be envied. As this page went to press, the situation remains unresolved.
    The U.S. State Department has strongly condemned the hijacking, as indeed it should. Passengers aboard the plane like other victims of hostage-taking have no connection to or power over the issues that led to their capture. They were simply trying to get from point A to point B, in this case Katmandu to New Delhi. That was when the five hijackers, armed with knives, pistols and grenades, took their fates in their hands. Their demand is the release of a Pakistani militant cleric jailed since 1994 as well as 35 Kashmiri prisoners in Indian jails. A demand for $200 million in cash was dropped yesterday. As in other acts of terrorism, the most appalling aspect is that the victims are randomly chosen, mere instruments in the hands of fanatics for whom their lives mean little if anything.
    There appears to be blame enough to go around. Dealing with a planeful of hostages on Taleban territory has to be a nightmare. As the terrorists threatened to start executing the passengers, Taleban troops surrounded the plane, a mixed blessing probably because it has also prevented other forces from attempting an armed rescue. The Taleban of Afghanistan are the same people who refuse to give up terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden; they are hardcore Islamic fundamentalists.
    Meanwhile the government of India has been roundly criticized for being slow to act. The opportunity did apparently exist early in the drama to stop the terrorists in their tracks as the plane was forced by lack of fuel to land in Amritsar, north of New Delhi. It remained on the ground for 30 precious minutes, which were wasted before taking off for Lahore, Pakistan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and finally Kandahar, Afghanistan where as of this writing it still sits on the runway with its desperate human cargo and with Indian negotiators facing an ordeal with no end in sight. It will take the unlikely combination of Indian, Pakistani and Taleban cooperation if this situation is to be resolved.
    But there are also even larger questions at play here. Back in the '70s and '80s, terrorist movements were often an ideological outgrowth of the Cold War, financed by Soviet sponsors or other communist governments. Today, new networks have sprung up, financed by the wealth of people like Osama bin Laden or countries like Iran. They may have a religious dimension, or equally likely, a nationalist one. With ethnic conflict flourishing across the world and new nations increasing in numbers exponentially, the Indian Airlines hijacking is not likely to prove unique. For India, the conflict in question is called Kashmir, and it has been handled for years by Indian governments with brutal repression. The drama now unfolding on Afghan soil should be an urgent wakeup call that a more humane solution is called for.


    New York Times
    In a Desolate House, Vestiges of a Violent 1999 Hijacking

    KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 4 The tiny piece of paper is inscribed with the names, ages and nationalities of the hostages. Four Spaniards at first. Then an American. A 71- year-old Frenchman wrote his name and his wife's, the last name in capital letters, the first name in cursive. One captor, for some reason, kept this reminder of the lives he once held in his hands.

    This scrap of paper from an Indian Airlines hijacking in 1999 was one item among scores of documents including terrorist training manuals found here Sunday in a house neighbors said was a headquarters for Pakistani militants.

    Five men carried out the hijacking: four ticket stubs from the flight, two boarding passes and an Indian Airlines Airbus 300 safety procedure card were among the souvenirs left behind in the house along with the handwritten list of hostages' names.

    The house was also filled with scattered documents business cards, boxes of cassette tape labels, sheets of blank stationery, recruitment literature and fliers bearing the name of Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, a Kashmiri Islamic extremist group that American officials believe has long been supported by Pakistan. It has been on the State Department's terrorist organizations list since 1997.

    The group was accused in the hijacking, but denied involvement. Its presence here suggests why a Taliban-run Afghanistan was of such strategic importance to Pakistan over many years: the country provided a haven for Islamic militants who could later be deployed to fight Indian rule of mainly Muslim Kashmir. Successive Pakistani governments have attached great importance to this campaign.

    Along with the Harkat ul-Mujahedeen literature were more than a dozen small green artillery instruction booklets with "Al Qaeda" printed on their front cover. There also was an Arabic-language guide to making weapons that was dedicated to Osama bin Laden.

    An examination of thousands of pages of documents left behind in seven houses and what appeared to be a training camp suggests that terrorists in training lived or worked in the houses.

    Northern Alliance officials say there are scores of houses here like this one, abandoned since the fall of Kabul but once inhabited by Arab, Chechen, Pakistani and other militant foreigners.

    American officials said they had removed chemical samples from 40 Al Qaeda sites and training bases here. This reporter visited one of those houses along with six other houses and the camp, all of which contained documents of various militant groups.

    This house, like others, was pointed out to Northern Alliance officials by neighbors who were canvassed. They said they had noticed many Pakistanis and other foreigners using the house during the Taliban rule.

    Some of the houses were open and could be entered. Others were guarded by alliance soldiers who allowed journalists to enter them. All the houses had been entered by Northern Alliance officials or soldiers or civilians living in Kabul. Many appeared to have been ransacked, some appear to have been cleaned out in part before they were abandoned, and in most there was evidence of some papers having been burned. It is not clear who might have been in the houses since the fall of the Taliban; nor is it clear whether anybody may have tampered with or left the documents during this time.

    The Central Intelligence Agency has examined documents left in houses in Kabul, according to an American intelligence official. While the government has found some materials that show that Al Qaeda had an interest in weapons of mass destruction and was collecting materials on the subject, the official said nothing found was considered sensitive.

    The array of materials found in the seven houses include forged visas, altered passports, listings of flight schools in Florida and registration papers for a flight simulator.

    The groups seem to have been highly organized and appeared to share research sources and other materials. The same standardized terrorism textbooks, religious booklets and military manuals were in several houses this reporter visited.

    The occupants kept detailed records, listing expenses on ledgers, using computers, setting up complex course schedules and grading their pupils as they progressed.

    Books and materials found in the houses made mention of nuclear weapons, anthrax and other biological weapons, sarin gas and poisons like ricin.

    There is also a lack of sophistication to the training materials and documents. While the groups may have dreamed of weapons of mass destruction, no evidence has emerged here of their actually having obtained any. Many of the texts in the houses are outdated and the plans sketched out in notebooks are crude.

    But the house here and the Indian Airlines hijacking suggest that a combination of crude tactics, luck and determination can succeed, as they did on Sept. 11.

    On Dec. 24, 1999, the five hijackers armed with knives and guns seized control of the flight from Katmandu, Nepal, to New Delhi with 155 people on board. The hijackers directed it from India to Pakistan to the United Arab Emirates and finally, on Dec. 25, to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

    During the stopover in Dubai, the hijackers called a group of strong- looking men to the front of the plane and made an example of one, Ripen Katyal, a 25-year-old newlywed. As the men watched, the hijackers slashed Mr. Katyal's throat and let him bleed to death.

    Over the next week of negotiations, one hijacker seemed to befriend the hostages, leading them in singing games and joke contests. When talks broke down on the seventh day, he threw open the doors of the plane, woke up the passengers and told them to pray. In 30 minutes, he said, they would be shot one by one.

    The next morning, everyone was freed in exchange for three jailed members of Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, which opposed Indian rule in the Himalayan territory of Kashmir. The five hijackers were allowed to escape with them.

    Taliban officials gave the hijackers 10 hours to leave the country and won international praise for their role in ending the standoff.

    American and Indian officials demanded that Pakistan shut down the group, but Pakistani officials refused, saying that could spark violent protests. Maulana Masood Azhar, a militant leader freed from prison in India as a result of the hijacking held public rallies in Pakistan and started an even more militant sister group, Jaish-e-Muhammad. The hijackers were believed to have re-entered Pakistan and disappeared.

    Numerous documents related to the hijacking were found in the house in the upper-class Wasir Akbar Khan neighborhood near the embassy district. They included a receipt from the purchase of one hijacker's ticket, that hijacker's fake Indian identity card, airport departure fee receipts and train passes two hijackers used while living in India planning the attack.

    The business cards of Harkat's general secretary, blank stationery, enrollment forms and letters to leaders of the group were found in the same room as the hijacker's tickets. Letters of introduction from Jaish-e- Muhammad, ask Harkat officials to enrol young men arriving in Afghanistan "in school."

    The documents could prove embarrassing to the Pakistani military, which American officials believe has covertly supported Harkat for years.

    Other documents show close ties to the Taliban. One paper listed the units and commanders of Taliban forces on the front lines near Kabul and their code names.

    Neighbors said the house served as a military headquarters, with scores of Pakistanis arriving there to receive orders about deployment.

    The house, which is being guarded by alliance soldiers but apparently has not been inspected by American intelligence officials, includes a list of trainees' names, home addresses and code names. There were also several copies of publications by American extremist groups that described poisons, espionage, disappearing ink and exploding pens.

    [This message has been edited by durango (edited December 06, 2001).]


      The blunder at Amritsar shows how inept the Indian government is at handling such affairs. Now it is trying to show that it was helpless by publishing the conversation between the tower and the piolt. Who says that this transcript is correct and not "cooked up" by the government.