Three persons were on Tuesday found guilty for the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu, IC 814, in 1999. But they were only support players, not the real culprits, who are probably still in Pakistan.
Remember the masked man under the cockpit of the plane at Kandahar, airport? The release of terrorists in exchange for the passengers? And the grieving relatives of Rupin Katyal, the passenger who was killed?
The five hijackers and three terrorists — escorted to Kandahar by India’s foreign minister — had driven away into the dusty haze beyond the airport. IC 814 had left for home soon afterward.
The flight from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked 40 minutes after take-off on December 25, 1999. It was taken to Lahore, where it was denied permission to land. It then came to Amritsar, and took off again for Lahore, where it was refuelled. It then went to Dubai before turning up in Taliban-controlled Kandahar.
In Patiala, trial court judge Inderjeet Singh Walia sentenced ‘main conspirator’ Yusuf Nepali and fellow accused Dalip Kumar Bhujail and Abdul Latif to life imprisonment. They had arranged for the hijackers’ stay, got them fake passports and arms used in the hijacking.
Rupin’s father, Chandra Mohan Katyal, said, “The guilty deserve nothing less than death. But the main accused are still free and the Indian government has failed to arrest them.”
At a news conference soon after the sentencing, CBI director Vijay Shanker said, “We have received no cooperation whatsoever from Pakistan... The released militants and the absconders in the case are present in Pakistan. Their arrest warrants were forwarded to Pakistani authorities with the request to arrest and extradite them.”
The five hijackers — Ibrahim Athar alias Chief, Sunny Ahmad Qazi alias Burger, Shahid Sayeed Akhtar alias Moti or Doctor, Zahoor Ibrahim Mistri alias Bhola and Shakir alias Shankar — were never caught. Nor were co-conspirators Abdul Rauf and Yusuf Azhar. All seven absconders are Pakistanis.
One of the terrorists released in exchange for the passengers — Ahmed Umar Saeed Sheikh — was sentenced to death later for the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. He is in a Pakistani jail now.