Indian Hijack Drama May End in Bloodshed

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At least America's not the only country dealing with Bin Laden-linked terrorism this holiday season. The Indian Airlines hijacking drama finished its sixth day on Wednesday, with 155 passengers aboard the Airbus parked on the runway at Kandahar in Afghanistan still hostage to Kashmiri separatists. The hijackers are demanding that India release their imprisoned leader, Pakistani cleric Moulana Masood Azhar. Despite concern over the fate of the hostages, India may be bound to hold out to avoid encouraging further acts of terrorism. "This is the fourth time the same group has taken hostages to demand Azhar's release," says TIME New Delhi correspondent Maseeh Rahman. "India has never given in before, and they're unlikely to do so this time."

Although Kashmiri separatist fighters are trained in camps linked with Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia — Bin Laden's host — is cooperating with Indian attempts to resolve the crisis. "Pressure from the Taliban may help bring this to a happy ending," says Rahman. "But if it isn't resolved shortly, India's only other alternative may be a commando raid on the plane. Although that would likely involve some loss of life, the hijackers are not very well armed." Having a plane hijacked by their Kashmiri allies arrive on their doorstep was the last thing the Taliban needed amid intense international pressure over its sheltering of Bin Laden. But it may have provided the Afghan rulers with an opportunity to make good on their vows to distance themselves from acts of terrorism. And their cooperation with India could lead to a mutually beneficial relationship, to the detriment of the Kashmiris — and Bin Laden.