Indian Commandos Kill Gunman to Thwart Hijacking

From Associated Press

Indian commandos stormed a hijacked Indian Airlines plane early today, shot dead the lone gunman and freed the 141 passengers and crew, police said.

The raid came 11 hours after the Boeing 737 was seized, said city Police Chief Hardeep Singh Dhillon. The gunman, who authorities said was a commander of a Muslim secessionist group, had threatened to shoot the passengers if the plane was not flown to Afghanistan.

The raid was the first anti-hijacking operation for the elite "Black Cats" unit, usually used as bodyguards for Indian leaders.

The gunman commandeered the plane Saturday shortly after it took off from New Delhi on a flight to Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, where an insurrection is being waged by Muslim separatists.

Authorities said the man, armed with pistols and hand grenades, was a commander of Hezbol Moujahedeen, a group fighting for Kashmir's independence. The group denied responsibility.

The hijacker initially demanded that the plane be flown to Pakistan. But when the pilot circled over the Pakistani city of Lahore, airport officials denied permission to land.

It was the fourth hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane this year and the third in a month. None of the previous hijackers were armed.

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