Hijackers appear set for prolonged negotiation

By press time Wednesday, the second day in the hijack drama at Mashhad airport in north-east Iran appeared set to end without a breakthrough in negotiations between Iranian officials and the hijackers. Kuwait rejected the hijackers' demand for the release of 17 Islamic radicals jailed in Kuwait for involvement in bomb attacks there in 1983. But the Kuwaiti government dispatched officials to Mashhad, Iran, at Iranian request, to take part in contacts with the Arabic-speaking hijackers.

The hijackers, reported to number between five and 10, were earlier said to have issued a 12-hour ultimatum for their demands to be met, but the deadline passed without incident. Most at risk were believed to be three members of the ruling Kuwaiti al-Sabah family, who were specifically threatened with ``imminent danger.''

But late Tuesday night, the hijackers allowed 24 women passengers to leave the Boeing 747, leaving 86 others on board. Those freed included 10 British and five members of the crew.

The hijackers also permitted the plane to be towed off the airport runway, indicating that a prolonged period of negotiation might lie ahead.

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