Congress was party to decision on Kandahar hijack: Jawadekar

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Nagpur, Apr 9 (UNI) BJP spokesman Prakash Jawadekar today said the Congress was a party to the decision to free terrorists to secure the release of the 130 passengers of an Indian Airlines aircraft, which had been hijacked to Kandahar in Afghanistan in 1999.

Speaking to reporters here, Mr Jawadekar said the government, then led by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, had convened an all-party meeting to discuss the crisis and ways to resolve it.

''All the parties present, including the Congress, insisted that the government do whatever was necessary to secure the release of the passengers on board the aircraft and save the country's prestige,'' he added.

''The government decided to free the terrorists because they can be chased and shot dead later on. However, it would have been a major tragedy and a great loss to the country if the hijackers were to kill the passengers, who were all innocent Indian citizens,'' Mr Jawadekar said. The decision to make every effort to secure the release of the Indian citizens was made in a transparent manner and ''everybody'' knew about it, he added.

However, not all departments in the government were aware of the nitty-gritty of the operation, with only those directly concerned getting involved, the BJP Spokesman said.

Asked if the Home Ministry was involved, Mr Jawadekar said, ''It was not. There were other departments involved.'' Asked to comment on senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani's statement in his autobiography that he was not aware of the move to release the terrorists, Mr Jawadekar said, ''There is no confusion. Mr Advani has described everything in the book.'' UNI AB MAZ HS HT1532

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