Cong criticises NDA over Kandhar handling

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Jaipur, Mar 26 (UNI) The Congress today levelled allegations against the erstwhile NDA Government at the Centre, which, it said, had paid Rs 200 crore as ransom, besides releasing three dreaded Kashmiri militants in exchange of safe release of hostages onboard the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 that was hijacked on December 24, 1999.

Addressing a press conference here, Congress spokesman Mohan Prakash also ridiculed former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani's ''confession'' made by the latter in his biography, that he was unaware of the move of release of the militants.

Mr Prakash said, ''I am making allegations with full seriousness and responsibility with submission that till now we were keeping mum due of sanctity of government machinery and working. But since, Mr Advani himself has reopened the issue I wish to bring this aspect on record.'' He said the money was taken in the same plane in which the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh escorted the freed militants to Kandhar.

Mr Prakash said then RAW chief and then IB chief were also accompanying the minister in the plane.

Then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, External Affairs Minister and BJP leadership should come forth with their clarification over the above allegations as well as the statement made by Mr Advani in his book.

Mr Prakash also criticised Mr Advani for ''running away from facts'' and said his statements had brought his own colleagues, then NDA Government and allies into the dock.

However, one of the NDA allies National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah had already contradicted one of Mr Advani's mention in the book, Mr Prakash said.

UNI SS SK KN1906

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