All hijacking is wrong

Safety first: Britain must punish perpetrators and deny asylum, or expect more such crimes.

February 11, 2000

THE PEACEFUL resolution of an Indian airlines hijacking at Kandahar in Afghanistan on New Year's Day was humane in freeing hostages. But it also inspired the hijacking of a domestic Afghan airliner that was freed yesterday at London's Stansted Airport.

When India's negotiators and Afghanistan authorities gave Kashmiri terrorists what they demanded -- freedom for three terrorists in Indian prisons and a safe getaway -- that hijacking succeeded. The moral was that hijacking works; others should try.

In the latest incident, the hijackers may really have wanted only asylum in Britain, which 60 hijackers and passengers have now requested for themselves and their dependents. Afghanistan is a poor, dysfunctional tyranny that many of its people would flee.

Hijacking for such a purpose resembles the spate of U.S. hijackings a generation ago, by Americans seeking asylum in Cuba, and a smaller number in reverse. This was stopped only by U.S.-Cuban agreement to stop it, transcending political differences.

Britain now should deal severely with these hijackers and any passengers or crew members in complicity. No one should be granted asylum out of this, which would reward the criminals for the crime. (The plane must be returned to Ariana Airlines in Afghanistan as soon as possible. Economic sanctions cannot justify refusal. )

Otherwise, more civil airliners and passengers would be put in peril. There can be no such thing as justified hijacking. If there is, anywhere, there would only be more hijackings, everywhere.

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