Arrest in Kashmir in India IC-814 hijack case

A hijacked Indian Airlines jetliner on the tarmac of Kandahar airport in Afghanistan on December 26, 1999
Image caption The Indian Airlines aircraft was flown to Kandahar in Afghanistan

A top militant allegedly involved in the 1999 hijacking of an Indian plane has been arrested in Indian-administered Kashmir, police say.

Merajuddin alias Javed Ahmad was arrested in the south-eastern district of Kishtwar.

Police said he returned recently from Pakistan via Nepal and was "recruiting youth for militant attacks".

The state-run Indian Airlines jet was hijacked en route to Delhi from Kathmandu with 180 people on board.

It was flown to Kandahar in Afghanistan, from where the hijackers negotiated the release of militants fighting in Kashmir.

India released three Kashmiri militants in exchange for the passengers. None of the five armed hijackers was caught.

Senior police officers in Kishtwar said Javed comes from Sopore, Kashmir's apple-growing town 50km (31 miles) north of Srinagar city.

He was also believed to have been involved in the 1996 bombings at Delhi's busy Lajpat Nagar market, they said.

"He crossed over to Pakistan in 1992. Now, he had returned via Nepal and was planning militant activities and was recruiting youth," a top police official who did not wish to be named told the BBC.

Scores of former militants have recently returned from Pakistan via Nepal under a government "rehabilitation policy".

Flight IC-814 was hijacked on 24 December 1999. The hijackers seized the plane 40 minutes after it took off from Kathmandu.

The BBC's Riyaz Masroor in Srinagar says the arrest takes place days after Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna visited Pakistan and signed a pact to normalise relations.

Militant activity in Kashmir has dropped to its lowest levels in many years and the Himalayan valley is witnessing a significant boom in trade and tourism, our correspondent adds.

More on this story