Wednesday, January 5 2:54 PM SGT
Indian Plane Hijackers Still In Afghanistan - Militants
ISLAMABAD (AP)--A militant Islamic group, battling Indian soldiers in disputed Kashmir, says that the five hijackers of an Indian passenger plane are still in Afghanistan.
"According to our information they are still in Kandahar," said Syed Salahuddin, chief of the Islamic Jehad Council, an umbrella group that represents more than one dozen Muslim militant groups - all of them battling Indian troops in disputed Kashmir.
Salahuddin was speaking to reporters late Tuesday and didn't elaborate on his sources.
The hijackers, along with three prisoners freed by India in exchange for the 155 hostages aboard the Indian Airlines plane have not been seen since the eight-day hijacking drama ended last Friday in southern Afghanistan.
The Taliban religious army which rules most of Afghanistan say the hijackers have left the country. They were given a 10-hour deadline to get out of the country.
There have been conflicting reports about their whereabouts with India insisting the five men are in Pakistan - a charge denied by Pakistan.
Pakistan says its border security has been put on alert and the hijackers will be arrested if they cross the border, a difficult task given the length of the border and the multitude of access points into Pakistan from Afghanistan.
Salahuddin, who also heads the radical Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen, said the hijackers can remain in Afghanistan in relative safety because the war-wracked nation already is ostracized by the international community which imposed sanctions in November.
The U.N. imposed sanctions on Afghanistan on Nov. 14 to punish the ruling Taliban for giving shelter to Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, accused by the U.S. of bombing its embassies in Africa in August 1998.
Salahuddin said neither Kashmiri militant groups nor the Pakistan government was involved in the hijacking.
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