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Pakistani Plane Hijacked

May 24, 1998

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Five men hijacked a Pakistani passenger plane Sunday demanding to go to India, but an air force fighter jet intercepted the aircraft and forced it to land before it left the country.

The Pakistan International Airlines plane with 38 passengers and crew members on board was on its way from the remote southwestern Baluchistan province to the southern port city of Karachi when it was hijacked, officials at Karachi International Airport said.

A Pakistan Air Force fighter jet took off shortly after the hijacking and forced the plane to land in Hyderabad, about 90 miles from Karachi, government officials said on condition of anonymity. Airport officials had said earlier the plane was forced to land when it ran out of fuel.

Negotiators boarded the plane as it sat on the tarmac in Hyderabad. Two of the hijackers apparently were carrying guns and the others reportedly had grenades, the government officials said.

From the control tower in Hyderabad there were reports that a crew member had been released with a list of demands from the hijackers. Pakistan Television said they wanted fuel and safe passage to New Delhi.

The hijacking came as tensions between Pakistan and India have soared over India’s recent testing of five nuclear devices. The two countries have gone to war three times.

The government-controlled news agency reported the hijackers were Indian citizens, but several government and intelligence officials told The Associated Press later they were Baluch tribesmen from Pakistan.

The tribesmen were protesting Pakistan’s plans to conduct a nuclear test at a site in Baluchistan, the intelligence officials said.

There have been several anti-government demonstrations in Baluchistan since reports surfaced last week that Pakistan was preparing a site in the province, near the border with Iran.

The control tower in Karachi said the plane was coming from Turbat, 240 miles away in Pakistan’s desolate southwest, near the border with Iran.

Controllers in Karachi had informed New Delhi that the plane was heading to India, and airports along the border were activated, an Indian air traffic control official said on condition of anonymity.

Update hourly