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FLIGHT 814

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On 12/24/1999, Christmas eve, five armed Islamic militants, later identified as Ibrahim Athar, Shahid Akhtar Sayed, Sunny Ahmed Qazi, Mistri Zahoor Ibrahim and Shakur (see – FLIGHT 814 hijackers) hijacked Indian Airline flight 814 from Katmandu, Nepal’s capital, to Delhi the capital of India.

The hijacking occurred at about 17:00 local time shortly after the aircraft took off in Katmandu and ordered the Captain to fly West, toward Lahore in North East Pakistan.

Pakistani authority refused landing permission to the hijacked aircraft as they were wary of being linked with the terrorists. Because a severe shortage in fuel flight 814 landed in Indian Amritsar without permission. At first the Indian Government did not agree to provide fuel to the airplane but after the hijackers killed a passenger named Rupin Katyal, they agreed to refuel the plane but began with excuses to delay the refueling in order to gain time and try to put in position its elite commando for rescue operation. Since it took to long the hijackers became suspicious and took off from Amritsar almost without fuel.  

Filght 814 eventually landed in Lahore despite the Pakistani authority refusal. A few seconds after touchdown, the right engine of the aircraft went out due to lack of fuel.

After a short fueling flight 814 headed to Dubai. In Dubai some 25 passengers were released along with the body of Mr. Katyal. The Authority in Dubai refused to delay the flight and enable India’s army commando to operate in Dubai.

From Dubai flight 814 headed to Afghanistan and landed in Kandahar, in South East Afghanistan on 12/25/1999 noon local time. The hijackers possessed a very sophisticated satellite telephone to communicate with Rawalpindi, Pakistan’s capital. When the authorities in Kabul refused to allow the hijacked aircraft to land, the hijackers communicated with the authorities in Rawalpindi. Hijacked flight 814 was asked to proceed to Kandahar by “mysterious” people in Rawalpindi. After the landing the aircraft was immediately surrounded by Taliban forces.  An Indian aircraft also landed in Kandahar few hours later with a negotiation team and, hidden in the plane, a commando unit, but again, the Taliban refused to any commando operation and their heavily armed presence around flight 814 made any rescue operation extremely dangerous. The Indian had no choice but negotiate the release of the hostages.

After a week of negotiation, under public pressure in India, the Indian authority accepted to release three of the most notorious Islamic terrorists held in Indian jail: Maulana Masood Azhar,  Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Omar Saeed Sheikh. 0n 12/31/1999, new year eve, all the 155 hostages were released in the deal..

Epilogue ; 

* The identity of the hijackers was established after the arrest of 4 of their accomplices in a Mumbai support cell following investigations by Indian authorities. The accomplices are all operatives of ISI and formed a support cell for the five hijackers of the flight 814 hijacking.

 * The flight 814 hijacking was the only terror event that was carried out successfully in the chain of terror attacks all over the world coordinated by al Qaeda and known as the Millennium Plot.

* The hijackers eventually returned to Pakistan. They were never arrested or charged for their role in the flight 814 hijacking.

* Ibrahim Athar, the hijackers’ ringleader, was later identified as the brother of Maulana Masood Azhar. The Indian Security Service CBI believes that Yusuf Azhar and Abdul Rauf, Maulana Masood Azhar’s younger brothers, have been the masterminds behind the conspiracy.

* Omar Saeed Sheikh was sentenced to death in Pakistan on 07/15/2002 for the murder of the journalist Daniel Pearl on 02/01/2002.  

* Maulana Masood Azhar became the leader of one of the most extreme Islamic groups in Pakistan – the Jaish-e-Muhammad, (Army of Muhammad) that participated in the attack on the INDIAN Parliament on 12/13/2001. He is still living without any restrictions in Pakistan.   

* Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, probably coordinated with ISI, is still operating today (08/2007) a training and recruiting network in Pakistan to the guerilla war in Kashmir.  

* On 02/05/2008 an Indian court in Punjab sentenced three more suspects: Abdul Latif, Dalip Kumar Bhujel, both Indian citizens, and Yusuf Nepali from Nepal, to life imprisonment for providing fake passports to the Flight-814 hijackers and assisting to smuggle weapons aboard the plane.

* Related topics –  

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