India sends team to probe hijack arrest

India is sending a two-member team to Chile to probe claims that the authorities in Santiago have detained a person wanted for the hijacking of Indian Airlines aircraft in December 1999 to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Sources in the government said the team will have a Superintendent of Police rank officer of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and another from intelligence agencies. The team will be leaving here on Tuesday for Santiago.

The authorities in Chile are reported to have detained Abdul Rauf on charges of possessing fake travel documents. Abdul Rauf is stated to be brother-in-law of Maulana Masood Azhar, one of the three dreaded terrorists who were released by New Delhi to secure safe passage of the passengers who were held hostage by the hijackers in Afghan city of Kandahar. The flight, IC-814, was on its way from Kathmandu to Delhi when it was hijacked on December 24, 1999. The passengers were held hostage for eight days in Kandahar.

Abdul Rauf, believed to be the financier of the hijack of Indian Airlines plane, is also suspected to be one of the key conspirators. The sources say that he was constantly in touch with the hijackers. A Red Corner Notice by Interpol was also issued against him. Born in Pakistani city of Bahawalpur in 1974, Abdul Rauf is fluent in Urdu, Hindi and English. He is wanted by the CBI on charges of hijacking, kidnapping and murder. It would be a difficult task for the Indian team to establish his identity in the absence of his fingerprints and other data. As India and Chile do not have an extradition treaty, the Indian team would face an uphill task in going through processes that will help establish his identity and involvement in the crime.