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Special Event

Millennium 2000: India Levels Charges at Pakistan Over Hijacking

Aired January 1, 2000 - 6:16 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Pakistan is vowing to arrest and prosecute the five hijackers of an Indian Air plane. They fled Afghanistan Friday after India met their demand to free three jailed Islamic fighters, bringing to an end a harrowing eight-day experience for the more than 155 hostages on board.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAGGIA, FLIGHT ENGINEER: I believe the whole world was concerned about what our fate was going to be, as we were totally helpless, sitting there doing nothing and only counting on our country and our government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The pilot said he and the passengers feared death every day. The hijackers separated one woman on her honeymoon from her husband. It would be days before she learned that he had been stabbed to death.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: And there are mixed emotions about India's handling of the hostage crisis and the decision to give in to one of the hijackers demands.

CNN's Maria Ressa is in New Delhi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA RESSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Celebrations for the millennium, overshadowed for this family by the homecoming of a newlywed couple returning from their honeymoon in Nepal when Flight 814 was hijacked. Their eight-day ordeal ended after India agreed to release three Islamic militants, something even the relatives of the hostages fear may send the wrong signal.

DR. SANJIV CHIBBER, RELATIVE: Three terrorists have been released. Our happiness is fringed with a shade of gray. But we feel it is worth it.

RESSA: Others in India disagree.

RAHUL BEDI, ANALYST: Well, it has been a blow to the fight against terrorism globally because it has really, by capitulating, the Indians have shown that terrorists can and will hold out for high stakes.

RESSA: On Saturday, External Affairs Minister Jaswan Singh again blamed Pakistan for engineering the hijacking. He claimed all five hijackers were Pakistani nationals and that they were now heading for Pakistan.

Pakistan's interior minister denies that, and says if the hijackers enter Pakistani territory, they'll be arrested.

Another accusation from India: that the only casualty, passenger Rupin Katyal (ph), could have been saved after the hijackers allegedly offered to release him and others when the plane was in Pakistan.

SHARAD YADAV, CIVIL AVIATION MINISTER: The hijackers had agreed to release women, children and the injured Katyal. But the Pakistan government refused to allow any passenger to get down in Pakistan.

RESSA: Pakistan has not yet responded to that charge.

All this increasing tensions further between India and Pakistan. The worlds newest nuclear powers, they have fought two wars over Kashmir since 1947.

BEDI: The atmosphere is charged. They are virtually fighting a daily, what's called a proxy war in the Kashmir state.

RESSA: Now the foreign minister for Afghanistan's Taleban forces says the hijackers and the freed Islamic separatists are headed for Kashmir.

(on camera): Some analysts here are now warning that the deal India cut could embolden Islamic separatists in Kashmir and mark India as a soft target for terrorism. Still, External Affairs Minister Singh says India will confront terrorism head on, vowing to seek justice and retribution at the right time.

Maria Ressa, CNN, New Delhi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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