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January 29, 2000
Let hostages sue, say intelligence officials
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Indian intelligence agencies have a sharp axe to grind with certain released hostages of the IC-814 drama, thanks to their plans to sue for compensation.
Officials, thus, are only happy to spill the beans. Some passengers, they now say, were so much struck with Stockholm syndrome that they even handed their visiting cards to the hijackers. Some others who did not have visiting cards wrote their addresses and telephone numbers on papers provided to them.
One passenger from Jammu and Kashmir went a step ahead, the officials claim. He collected Rs 71,000 from the hostages at the hijackers' instance, and handed it over to the Taliban as a thanksgiving gesture.
When the Afghan officials refused it, he returned to the aircraft but did not hand the money back to the passengers, officials allege.
What the officials can't get over is the sympathy the released hostages show for the hijackers. "One of our officers was furious. He did not believe that the Stockholm syndrome could last that long. He was upset because the comments of some passengers were virtually anti-national," a senior official said.
"The relatives had harassed the government and brought shame to the country by taking to the streets demanding the release of militants. The hostages were one step ahead of their relatives," he added.
Asked how the passenger had identified the hijackers, sources said they were not wearing masks when they checked in at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal. Some passengers were sharp enough to place them once they announced the plane was in their control.
Meanwhile, some passengers were fearful that they would become soft-targets for the hijackers. But intelligence officials dismissed this. Why should the same people who had willingly given their visiting cards to the hijackers feel insecure now, they ask.
"So far not a single passenger has approached the police or intelligence agencies with a formal request for security," an official said.
"We want them to go ahead with the case because the legal battle will expose them. They would lose money because the compensation rules are governed by the Warsaw Pact. And there is no provision under it for compensation for hijacking," he claimed.
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