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Nepal: Crashed aircraft was hijacked by PM's party in 1973

world Updated: Feb 17, 2014 14:41 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times
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The aircraft that crashed in Nepal on Sunday had featured in the country's first hijacking, which involved incumbent Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, 74. Indian actor Mala Sinha was on board when the siege took place in 1973.

Sushil Koirala, along with other Nepali Congress members, had taken an active part in the operation. The Nepali Congress was fighting a pro-democracy armed struggle against the ruling monarchy, which was abolished in 2008.

Wreckage of the Canadian-made 19-seater Twin Otter aircraft was found on Monday morning, almost 20 hours after it went missing. The plane crashed at Masine hill in Dhikura village, 200 km west of capital Kathmandu, officials said. All the 18 people on board were killed.

The aircraft had become a talking point after three members of the Nepali Congress hijacked it on June 10, 1973, to fund the party's pro-democracy armed struggle. The plane, owned by Royal Nepal Airlines (later renamed Nepal Airlines), was carrying Rs 30 lakh of government money on the day.

It was forced to land on a grassy strip in Forbesganj, Bihar. The money was taken from the aircraft and transported via road to Darjeeling in West Bengal.

Those involved in masterminding the plot included Girija Prasad Koirala, who later became the prime minister. Sushil Koirala, who was then 34, was at Forbesganj and took active part in the siege.

It is a little-known fact that Bollywood actress Mala Sinha was also in the aircraft as a passenger when it was hijacked.

The aircraft was sent back to Biratnagar and within a year, all hijackers were arrested in India. They served various terms. Sushil Koirala was imprisoned for three years.

It was the first hijacking in Nepal's history. The next one took place in 1999, when Indian Airlines flight IC-814 was hijacked on its way from Kathmandu to Delhi and was diverted to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

In July 1992, the Twin Otter aircraft was in news again after it skidded off the runway and hit a fence while trying to take off from Jumla to Surkhet. None of the three crew members in the flight were injured.

The aircraft's engine was overhauled two months ago after being in service for over 40 years. It was on a routine flight from Kathmandu to Jumla when it went missing on Sunday afternoon.

(With Reuters inputs)