Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said his government has information that the hijacking was part of a Pakistan-backed terrorism campaign.
“All the information now available with the government about the hijack and the subsequent developments makes it clear that it was an integral part of the Pakistan-backed campaign of terrorism,” Vajpayee said in a statement.
Pakistani Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider said the allegations were untrue and “very irresponsible.”
There’s still no official word on where the hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane went after they were allowed 10 hours to flee the scene of their 8-day standoff with authorities.
India says the hijackers went to Pakistan; Pakistan says that’s not so and that they would be arrested if they did.
The five were allowed to escape a Kandahar, Afghanistan airfield in four-wheel drive vehicles after they freed the 155 people trapped aboard the airplane for eight days, but officials in Afghanistan’s Taliban group said that heavily armed troops will begin to pursue the fleeing hijackers.
After the hostages returned to New Delhi, Vajpayee said he would work to combat further terrorist acts.
“Surely the time has come for the world to confront this evil, to act in concert and crush it,” he said. “India shall join hands across nations to rid the world of this crime against humanity.”
The standoff began Dec. 24, when hijackers armed with grenades, pistols and knives, seized the Indian Airlines plane about 40 minutes after it took off from Nepal heading for New Delhi.
Since then, the hijackers dropped several of their original demands, including a $200 million ransom, the release of jailed Moslem cleric Masood Azhar and 35 other militants, and the return of the body of a dead Kashmiri fighter.
According to press reports, Azhar was one of the three militants released by the Indian government.