Hijack scare: Accused a habitual offender, say officials

Hijack scare: Accused a habitual offender, say officials

The man who sent aviation security into a tizzy early this morning by placing a note on a Jet Airways flight about hijackers and a bomb in the plane is a "habitual offender" known for creating trouble onboard, government officials here said.

The man, identified as Birju Kishore Salla, had once carried a cockroach with him on a flight and blamed the airline for it, the officials said.

Salla, who belongs to an affluent Mumbai-based Gujarati family, had been let off on that occasion after he assured the airline he would not repeat the offence, an official privy to the investigation into the case said.

A businessman in his late 30s, Salla always travels by business class, and mostly on Jet Airways. The officials said he seemed to hold a grudge against the airline.

The incident today, when Flight 9W 339 carrying 122 people made an emergency landing at the Ahmedabad airport, triggered a scare in the security establishment.

The two-level standard operating procedures (SOPs) in a hijacked situation were activated and anti-terror lead force National Security Guard (NSG) commandos were put on high alert, another official said.

In a hijack situation, the two SOP levels are the aerodrome committee and the response team, comprising officials of the NSG, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, intelligence agencies and others.

The accused has been detained by the Gujarat Police, which is interrogating him.

When no suspicious objects or explosives were found on the aircraft after a detailed search, the plane, on its way from Delhi to Mumbai, was cleared to fly again for the remaining part of the journey.

However, the pilot of the aircraft insisted that sky marshals be on board, and accordingly, two armed guards traveled on the flight from Ahmedabad to Delhi.

Salla is likely to be put on a no-fly list of people barred from boarding commercial aircraft.

The Mumbai-Delhi Jet Airways flight made the emergency landing after a note stating that there were hijackers and a bomb on board was found in the plane's washroom.

The official pointed out that the note referred to POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) which investigators found suspicious because Pakistan-based terrorists call the area 'Azad Kashmir'.

The note, with a para in Urdu on the top and English at the bottom, ended with "Allah is Great" and said, "Flight No 9W 339 is covered by Hijackers and aircraft should not be land and flown straight to POK. 12 people on board. if you put landing gear you will hear the noise of people dying. dont take it as a joke. Cargo area contains explosive bomb and wl blast if you land Delhi (sic)."

Flight 9W 339, which had taken off from Mumbai at 2.55 am with 115 passengers and seven crew members, landed without incident at Ahmedabad around 3.45 am. The Boeing 737-900 plane was parked at a remote bay and all 122 safely deplaned.

"Salla was detained by the police after a preliminary investigation... It was revealed that Salla had put the threat letter in the plane's washroom. We will take necessary action against him," a police officer in Ahmedabad said.

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