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Four escape from hijacked aircraft at Stansted.

AIRLINE INDUSTRY INFORMATION-(C)1997-2000 M2 COMMUNICATIONS LTD

Four flight crew have escaped under the cover of darkness from the hijacked aircraft standing at London-Stansted airport.

It is thought that the captain, second captain, first officer and flight engineer climbed down a rope ladder from the cockpit without the hijackers noticing and it was several minutes before their escape was discovered. According to the BBC it took several minutes to calm the situation.

A spokesperson for the police force said that passengers released from the aircraft have indicated that there are between six to ten hijackers onboard and that `it is still not clear what will resolve the situation, what they want.`

So far the hijackers have demanded only food, medicine and other supplies and it is now being speculated that they are seeking political asylum in the UK, though this was not confirmed by police according to Reuters.

Since arriving at Stansted on 7 February, the hijackers have released nine passengers including five on 7 February and four on 8 February. This does not include the four flight crew which escaped this morning (9 February).

The Ariana aircraft commenced its flight in Kabul, Afghanistan with about 186 people onboard and since releasing passengers in Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, Moscow and now Stansted, there remain about 156 people onboard. Police have indicated that the atmosphere in the aircraft appeared to be calm and that the negotiations were being conducted in a `business-like` manner according to PA News.

Eman Omar of Omar & Partners, a London-based law firm, has said that people should not assume that the hijackers actually know how to apply for political asylum, saying that police may be deliberately not raising the issue because they do not want to give them any clues about the process but wanted to see what they were really after. She also said that people should not assume they are `just hijackers` because the risks taken to hijack an airline are serious and not generally taken lightly by those involved.

A representative of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees apparently arrived in Stansted from London on 8 February to observe and offer background assistance on the situation in Afghanistan, however whether her presence is indicative of the hijackers` request for asylum is not known, with the subject being described as `sensitive` by police.

Meanwhile, operations at Stansted are at about 99% of normal levels according to airport officials.

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Title Annotation:Ariana Airlines flight
Comment:Four escape from hijacked aircraft at Stansted.(Ariana Airlines flight)
Publication:Airline Industry Information
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 9, 2000
Words:415
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