26 AUG 1984 SIKH TERRORISTS HIJACKED INDIAN AIRLINES PLANE

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Sikh terrorists who seized an Indian plane with 93 people aboard freed their hostages Saturday after United Arab Emirates officials promised them temporary asylum and passage to the United States.

The hijackers, who had released seven passengers during stops in Pakistan, freed their remaining 86 hostages at Dubai airport in the Persian Gulf sheikdom 36 hours after seizing the aircraft during a domestic flight in India and demanding to fly to the United States.

Indian officials said the hijacking was the work of 12 followers of Sikhism, whose radical members seek to turn the Indian state of Punjab into an independent country to be called Khalistan.

‘The UAE has agreed to grant the hijackers seven days’ asylum in the country, after which they will leave for the United States,’ said WAM, the official news agency of the United Arab Emirates.

‘The move is in accordance with the hijackers’ demand.’

But in Washington, a State Department official said, ‘There was no formal request for asylum.’ Department spokeswoman Sondra McCarty said no U.S. official dealt with the terrorists.

American diplomats in the UAE said the hijackers would have faced arrest if they had flown on to the United States, a British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent reported.

In New Delhi, Indian Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister Khurshed Alam Khan told India’s parliament that Dubai law would be enforced against the hijackers and that the Indian Airlines Boeing 737 has ‘been handed over to us.’

WAM said the drama at Dubai airport, where the plane had been parked for about 14 hours on a runway, ended when the hijackers came out and ‘stood at an isolated place near the plane’ before being taken into custody.

The agency said the hostages — believed to number 80 passengers and six crew members — straggled out and were taken by bus to an airport lounge, where they received ‘all necessary medical care.’

Most of the hostages — 68 passengers and six crew — were returned to New Delhi, where they arrived early Sunday to a tumultuous welcome from family and friends who tossed garlands of bright orange marigolds around their necks.

Some of the former hostages said they believed Pakistani authorities supplied the terrorists with a gun and ‘lots of ammunition’ during negotiations at the airport in Lahore, Pakistan.

Flight steward D.K. Mehta, who was on two previously hijacked Indian Airlines planes, said the hijackers displayed a cylinder werapped in newspaper with a protruding wick, which they said was a bomb, but displayed no weapons until the aircraft landed in Lahore, Mehta said.

Mehta said the hijackers apparently were given ‘a lot of ammunition.’

The Indian Air Lines jet was commandeered early Friday minutes after leaving the Punjab capital of Chandigarh for Jumma in Kashmir state. The hijackers forced the pilot to land in Lahore, just across the Indian border.

The terrorists freed five passengers in Lahore but warned they had explosives and threatened to kill a hostage every 15 minutes unless the plane was refueled and allowed to take off.

The aircraft then flew to Karachi, in southern Pakistan, where another two passengers were freed and the plane was refueled before taking off for the Persian Gulf.

In negotiations with Pakistani authorities, the hijackers said they wanted to be flown to the United States, but the reason was not immediately clear.

The terrorists allowed food to be brought to the plane in Karachi and again in Dubai, where a passenger became ill and was taken to a hospital but later returned to the plane under a deal between authorities and the hijackers.

On Friday, Capt V.K. Metha was quoted as saying over his radio that his plane was in the hands of ‘seven Sikh hijackers armed from head to toe who have been joined by five passengers.’

The hijackers carried ‘daggers, two bombs and several cigarette lighters,’ said Mrs. Jatinder Gurmit Singh, one of two women who became ill and were released in Karachi.

She said the hijackers demanded Indian government troops leave the Punjab, specifically the sacred Golden Temple complex in Amritsar.

Indian troops stormed the temple in June to dislodge hundreds of armed Sikhs blamed for terrorist attacks. More than 500 people were killed in the attack on the Shrine.

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