CIVIL

Kandahar Hijacking

On December 24, 1999 IC 814 with 178 passengers and 11 crew members left Kathmandu for Delhi. It entered Indian airspace at 5.30 pm and was hijacked shortly after. According to interviews with the crew later, first a masked man stood up and threatened to blow up the plane.Four others in red masks got up and positioned themselves at different points in the aircraft.

They directed the pilot Captain Devi Sharan to fly to Lahore. Reports at that time suggested that the pilot flew to Lahore, Pakistan clearly worried about the possible consequences of an Indian hijacked plane on its territory, refused permission. The captain of the IC flight then said there was insufficient fuel and persuaded the hijackers to allow him to land the plane at Amritsar.

The government led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was thus given the opportunity to intervene directly, block the aircraft from taking off, start negotiations as a first step. Instead in less than an hour the aircraft was suddenly airborne again, went on to Lahore where it was refuelled and asked to immediately leave, went to Dubai by which time one passenger had been stabbed to death and some others injured. Twenty six passengers were released in Dubai. And from there the plane was taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan, under Taliban control at the time.

A S Dulat in his book ‘Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years’  writes that “no one in Delhi or Punjab wanted to bell the cat.”

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