Man accused of hijacking claims he fled brutal Taliban

Thursday, November 1, 2001

LONDON -- A man accused of hijacking a passenger plane from Afghanistan to London says he fled the country after experiencing the brutality of the Taliban regime.

Ali Safi, 38, told jurors at the Old Bailey Wednesday that he witnessed massacres, public executions and amputations after the Taliban took control of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif in 1998.

"I could see they were killing civilians. People were falling around us but we were incapable of helping them," Safi told the court through an interpreter.

Safi and 10 other men are standing trial for hijacking and arms and explosives offenses. They are accused of seizing an Ariana Airlines Boeing 727 carrying more than 180 people during an internal Afghan flight in February 2000.

The plane hopscotched through Central Asia and Russia before landing in Britain, where the hijacking ended four days later with a peaceful surrender at Stansted.

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