Hijack threat: Indian planes in S Asia on high alert

Last Updated 22 January 2010, 11:52 IST

Mandatory secondary ladder point checks on all aircraft operating in the south asian region and sky marshals on flights were ordered by authorities, as security was further beefed up at airports across the country after Government issued a hijack alert for Indian planes in SAARC countries.

"The alerts have been issued by us and it is based on some intelligence inputs that we have received. We suspect that there can be an attempt to target one of our airlines especially those which fly abroad. We have alerted our agencies to be careful on anti-hijacking measures," U K Bansal, Special Secretary (Internal Security), said today.

He said the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) have been alerted to tighten security in all airports in the country.

A directive has been issued to all Indian missions abroad to sensitise the staff of the airlines, he said.

"These are anti-India terrorist outfits whose objectives are to carry out attacks in India or harm Indian interests," he said.

According to intelligence inputs, terrorist groups owing allegiance with Al-Qaeda, Lashker-e-Taiba(LeT) and Jamat-ud-Dawah(JuD) were planning to hijack an Air India plane especially operating to or from SAARC countries -- Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as well.

Air India and private carriers Jet Airways and Kingfisher said necesssary security drill put in place and nothing was being taken to chance.The Home Ministry advisory said security agencies in countries serviced by Air India must be sensitised through their offices there to step up security arrangements at airports concerned with particular emphasis on Indian flights.

Hijacking could be attempted by the terrorists from airports located at Yangon, Dhaka and Colombo. Security of planes operating to Bhutan has also been beefed up, official sources said.

Following this input, the Civil Aviation Ministry has directed all the airlines especially Air India to take extra steps besides asking BCAS to deploy sky marshals on aircraft operating on such routes, the sources said.

On its part, the External Affairs Ministry asked Indian missions, particularly in SAARC countries, to brief the  staff of the Air India and other Indian carriers about the threat.
Taking a serious view of the threat, the Home Ministry yesterday issued directions to upgrade security.

The intelligence input has been shared with India by Western spy agencies which had received an intercept.

The BCAS has issued an advisory to all airlines to conduct a mandatory secondary ladder point check on all aircraft flying in the region.

In the wake of the intelligence reports, the Civil Aviation Ministry has directed that security be upgraded at all airports and asked airlines to abide by guidelines.
When contacted, spokespersons of leading carriers like Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher said they had already put in place all security procedures at various levels as recommended by the authorities to counter the threat perceptions.

The measures include deployment of sky marshals on certain routes and introduction of frisking at step-ladders as an additional precautionary measure, the spokespersons said, adding that all other necessary steps on safety and security of passengers have been put in place.

(Published 22 January 2010, 05:19 IST)

Follow us on