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Swiss government "relieved" by end to hijack crisis

The Swiss government said it was “extremely relieved” by the fact that the hijack hostage crisis in Afghanistan had come to an end and that the hostages, including a number of Swiss, had been set free.

This content was published on December 31, 1999 - 15:32

The Swiss government said it was “extremely relieved” by the fact that the hijack hostage crisis in Afghanistan had come to an end and that the hostages, including a number of Swiss, had been set free.

The foreign ministry issued a statement in which the government again strongly condemned the hijacking.

“For more than a week, more than 160 innocent people were deprived of their freedom and their lives were put at great risk for political reasons,” the statement said.

The eight-day ordeal finally came to an end in the town of Kandahar earlier on Friday, when the hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane walked off the aircraft and released their hostages.

The end to the crisis came after the Indian authorities apparently freed three Islamic militants.

The hijackers got off the aircraft and into waiting vehicles parked next to the hijacked plane. The vehicles headed out of the airport but it was unclear where the hijackers were headed. Unconfirmed reports said they would leave for a third country after the authorities told the hijackers to leave Afghanistan within ten hours.

The passengers walked off the aircraft and were immediately taken care of by medical staff. At least some of the freed hostages were flown to India on Friday afternoon.

The Swiss passengers were to be welcomed by a special Swiss delegation in India, according to officials.

The first sign of progress in negotiations with the hijackers came on Wednesday, when Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban persuaded them to drop demands for a $200-million ransom and the body of a Kashmiri militant.

Officials of Taliban, a Muslim fundamentalist movement that controls 90 percent of Afghanistan, convinced the hijackers that the demands went against Islamic teachings.

Delhi came under heavy pressure from relatives and supporters of the hostages to bring an end to the crisis. Most of the hostages are Indian.

The Swiss government had contacted the Indian authorities and called for a swift and peaceful end to the crisis. The federal authorities had also been in regular contact with Swiss delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kandahar.

Armed with grenades, pistols and knives, the hijackers seized Flight 814 some 40 minutes after it took off from Nepal. The plane made stops in India, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates before landing in Afghanistan the following day.

Twenty-seven hostages and the body of a slain man were unloaded in the Emirates.

The plane was carrying 178 passengers and 11 crew members when it took off on December 24. The passengers included 150 Indians, eight Nepalese, one Canadian, one American, four Swiss, four Spaniards, one Belgian, one Japanese, one Australian, two French citizens and one Italian. Four passengers were not listed by nationality.

From staff and wire reports.

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