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Five Hijacked Passengers Released

February 7, 2000

STANSTED, England (AP) _ Police launched urgent negotiations today with hijackers who seized an Afghan passenger airliner and forced it across Central Asia and Europe. Authorities said five of the remaining 165 hostages were freed at Stansted Airport outside London.

No reason was disclosed for releasing the two men, one woman and two children, said spokeswoman Tina Starling of the Essex Police.

``We are at a very critical stage in our negotiations,″ said John Broughton, assistant chief constable of the Essex force.

The hijackers had released a total of 22 hostages in return for supplies during earlier stops in Uzbekistan, Kazakstan and Russia before arriving at Stansted early today.

Update hourly