Hostages swapped for three militants
The week-long hostage crisis ended today when
the Vajpayee Government agreed to release (at least) three
hardcore ``Kashmiri'' terrorists in exchange for the freedom of
155 Indian passengers and the crew members of the hijacked Indian
Airlines aircraft. All the hostages returned home late tonight
from Kandahar to freedom and the new millennium - and, to an
emotional reunion with their loved ones at the Palam airport.
Hijackers headed for Kashmir?
As the terrorists-for-hostages deal was
implemented without an apparent hitch this evening at the
Kandahar airport, the hijackers of the Indian Airlines airbus,
along with the released militants, were expected to ``go to
Kashmir'' via Pakistan.
``They (the hijackers) claim to be Kashmiris. Let them go to
Kashmir,'' Mullah Omar, Taliban Amir-ul-Momineen, was quoted as
telling Mr. Rahimullah Yusufzai, Peshawar-based correspondent of
'Setback to India'
``It is a major defeat for the Government of
India,'' the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman
Khalil, told TheHindu in response to the information that New
Delhi had decided to release three militants in exchange for the
freedom of hostages.
The Maulana, who ``condemned'' the hijacking incident, however,
said the Indian Government had suffered a major ``setback''.
Maulana Masood Azhar, one of the militants released in exchange
for the hostages, was linked to the Harkat-ul-Ansar, previous
identity of the Harkat-ul- Mujahideen.
Hijackers kill colleague
Hijackers of the Indian Airlines plane, killed
one of their colleagues during the week-long drama, diplomats
quoted freed passengers as saying today.
Yeltsin resigns, Putin takes over
In a bombshell decision, Russia's President, Mr.
Boris Yeltsin, resigned today, six months ahead of his
Constitutional term, appointing the Prime Minister, Mr. Vladimir
Putin, as Acting President and urging Russians to vote for him in
early presidential elections.
``Today, on the last day of outgoing century, I am resigning,''
Mr. Yeltsin said in a televised address to the nation. The
Kremlin press service said Mr. Yeltsin had signed the resignation
decree, effective 12-00 Moscow time on Dec. 31, in the presence
of the Russian Patriarch, who blessed Mr. Putin to take over the
reigns of power.
New millennium ushered in
This tiny uninhabited
place in the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean nation of Kiribati
became the first land mass to usher in the new millennium. A
colourful pageant marked the event with visitors singing and
dancing in skirts and headgears.
BJP's 'hard state' line takes a beating
The biggest casualty in the hijack crisis has
perhaps been the boast of the Vajpayee Government that it would
never compromise national interests no matter where the pressure
came from. In fact, the Bharatiya Janata Party has over the years
been very careful to build its image around the keyword -
``nationalism'' - and has projected itself as a proponent of a
Hijackers threatened to kill, also cracked jokes
The hijackers threatened the passengers with
death sometimes and at times cracked jokes. As the ordeal ended
for the 155 passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane,
some of them, exhausted from the mental and physical trauma,
reminisced the agonising eight days in captivity.