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After an eight-day standoff, the hijackers of an Indian Airlines flight bound for New Delhi freed their 155 hostages. In exchange Friday, India released three Muslim militants from prison. The five terrorists escaped the plane and were swept away in vehicles awaiting them at the scene in Kandahar, Afghanistan. As the Monitor went to press, the whereabouts of the hijackers were still unknown. However, India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said that the criminals - who he insists are Pakistani nationals - had fled to Quetta in southwestern Pakistan. Islamabad denies the allegations, pledging to arrest the hijackers if they cross its borders.

In a surprise New Year's Eve announcement, Boris Yeltsin resigned as president of Russia. His successor is former spy Vladimir Putin. The day after his appointment, Putin traveled to Gudermes, Chechnya, to praise the Russian forces fighting the region's rebels. There, he instructed troops: "This is not simply about restoring honor and dignity to the country ... this is about how to bring about the end of the breakup of Russia.".

Meanwhile, Moscow seized control of the strategic Tersky Heights overlooking Vedeno, a key Chechen rebel command center. In the raid, Russian troops also appropriated a substantial stash of weapons and ammunition. Chechen authorities report locals are holed up in homes, unable to flee because of nonstop shelling.

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On the whole, millennial celebrations worldwide proceeded smoothly - as feared upheavals from technology and terrorism were avoided. Only minor Y2K-related disruptions of computers were reported. Among the glitches: Some hospitals in Sweden experienced difficulty with equipment; Japan had some trouble with a radiation-monitoring system; and Italy had some stubborn ATMs.

Israeli President Ehud Barak is scheduled to meet in Shepherdstown, W.V., today in US-brokered talks with Farouq al-Shara, Syria's foreign minister. This will be the second round of peace talks between Israel and Syria in a month. Syria refuses to hammer out a peace deal without the return of the Golan Heights.

An unnamed Louisiana pilot flew a small plane into Cuban airspace and dropped numerous anti-Communist pamphlets over Havana. Two MIG fighters were sent to patrol the pilot's activities, but took no action. The pamphlets called on Cubans to overtake radio and TV stations in a strike against the Communist regime.

The polls for parliamentary elections in Croatia close today, with many analysts predicting the end of Croatian Democratic Union's decade-long majority rule. In three weeks, another election will be held to name a successor for deceased President Franjo Tudjman.

A week after devastating storms ravaged much of Western Europe, over 600,000 homes in hard-hit France remained without electricity. Repair costs for electrical damage are estimated at up to $770 million.

WIth visibility reduced by fog, some 80 to 110 cars crashed in a pileup on an autobahn in central Germany. Two people died and 73 were injured.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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