Bomb found on Kingfisher plane

BIA security breach, terror angle probed

Bomb found on Kingfisher plane

Security personnel on a high alert at the Thiruvananthapuram airport complex after a country-made bomb was allegedly found on the Bangalore-Thiruvananthapuram Kingfisher  aircraft on Sunday.  PTI

The low-intensity bomb weighing about 30 mg in the size of a small ball was found wrapped in a Malayalam newspaper in the cargo hold of Kingfisher flight IT 4731 which landed at Thiruvananthapuram at 8.35 am on Sunday.

It was discovered by the airline staff during a routine check of the cargo after the 27 passengers deplaned.

“This is a serious security lapse which should not have happened. The State police have registered a case and investigations are on,’’ said Kerala Law Minister M Vijayakumar, after visiting the airport. Sleuths of the Kerala and Bangalore police are coordinating efforts to investigate all possible angles, including a terror threat.

Security agencies led by the Thiruvananthapuram police commissioner Ajithkumar inspected the aircraft and the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad examined the material. Potassium chlorate, aluminium powder and sulphur were found to be the ingredients used to make the object.

The 72-seater aircraft is usually parked close to the domestic terminal and passengers have no access to the cargo area. Police are investigating various angles and airport staff are also being questioned.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (North-East Division) Basavaraj Malagatti said in Bangalore that five squads were probing the case. “All airport and airline staff on duty on Sunday have been questioned. A police team will also be sent to Thiruvananthapuram,” he said.

Bangalore police sources said the explosive device was the size of a large cracker and was wrapped in an SSLC question paper from the Kerala State Education Board.

A second layer of cover, a Thiruvananthapuram edition of the ‘Malayala Manorama’ newspaper of March 13, was also used to wrap the object. The aircraft arrived from Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday evening to BIA.

Even though there is the possibility of the bomb having rolled out from the baggage of a passenger, examination of individual passengers did not throw up any leads. Some of the passengers were questioned.

The seriousness of the lapse is such that police sources did not rule out an abortive terror plot or even a plain mock-up exercise. Ajithkumar has left for Bangalore and representatives of Karnataka  police are also reaching here for further investigations. The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security has also ordered an inquiry into the incident.

In Bangalore, while the airline blamed the airport operator, BIA sources said the responsibility of any baggage that is put into the cargo hold rests with the airline staff. They said all mandated security checks on hand and checked-in baggage were complied with before the aircraft was permitted to take-off.

A BIA sporkesperson said: “A total of 24 checked-in baggages were taken into the aircraft. The airline security staff did confirm an unidentified package and are further investigating. But there is absolutely no security lapse on part of the airport staff”.
The BIA believes that the crude bomb was not found in any of the baggage. It claimed that any possible lapse may have occurred at the destination point

(Thiruvananthapuram). “Two screenings of the registered (checked-in) baggage by the airport security and hand baggage checks by the CISF were performed by the airport and cleared” the BIA spokesperson said. In its statement, Kingfisher Airlines confirmed that an unclaimed package was found on board the aircraft.

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