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December 28, 1999
2 IA standby planes ready
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
Two Indian Airlines standby planes are ready in New Delhi to take off for Kandahar, according to a report.
Hours after the third round of talks began this morning between the Indian team led by Vivek Katju, who is in charge of the Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan desk at the ministry of external affairs, and the hijackers, there seems to be little progress.
A Taleban spokesman said the talks have been ''unsuccessful'' till now.
According to a report, Taleban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakel said his government was losing patience and if Indian negotiators fail to get an agreement "we will use force to make the plane leave".
Sources said in New Delhi that talks are continuing with the hijackers through a radio contact.
According to the sources, the negotiators were well trained to detect the mood of the hijackers from the tone of their voices.
The hijackers are still holding 160-odd hostages aboard Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 even as its engine has stopped functioning.
A report said the plane's engine stopped working this morning after 72 hours of virtual non-stop running. The engines have been kept running at the Kandahar airport to provide heat for the passengers.
A Kandahar airport official has told rediff.com that the aircraft's auxiliary power unit has developed a snag.
With the engine of the aircraft -- and as a result its air-conditioning system -- not functioning, the doors of the plane have now been opened to provide some relief to the passengers.
Engineers are trying to fix the snag, the report said.
Following the snag in the auxiliary power unit, the Taleban authorities have been asked to provide ground power supply to the plane to keep the heating on, official sources said in New Delhi today.
The sources said though the day temperature was 21 degrees Celsius in Kandahar now, it would become very cold at night.
There were some hostages who were not in a medically fit condition, the sources said.
Earlier in the day, an unconfirmed television report said all the passengers aboard IC-814 have been released by the hijackers.
However, the Indian government has denied this.
When rediff.com asked Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan if this was true, he laughed, ''I have nothing to say in this regard.''
Adding to the confusion, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh has put off his media conference again. He will meet the media now at 1500 IST (he was to address them at 1130 IST, then at 1330 IST).
Unconfirmed reports said the hijackers have released six more hostages.
Additional reportage: UNI
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