With Indians and assets in Afghanistan coming under constant attack from Taliban and Al Qaeda, Air India has beefed up security in flights to and from Kabul following information that it was a “sitting duck” for terror groups.
While the airline officials declined to speak on the issue, sources in the national carrier said that a two-tier security mechanism has been put in place which carries out extensive check of all the baggages loaded into the aircraft.
The flag carrier, which is one of the few international airlines that operates to Kabul, six times a week with virtually full load, has been spotted as by international and Indian agencies a “sitting duck” for terror groups like Taliban, Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Finding that screening continued to be “lax”, intelligence agencies have told Indian authorities that extra steps needed to be taken for ensuring safety of passengers as terror groups were planning either to hijack its aircraft or smuggle some explosives in the luggage, if the screening continued to be lax.
The screening of the baggage is being done by a local Afghan agency and now Air India has included another tier of security, where their security staffs carry out screening of the luggage of all the passengers, the sources said.
A report emanating from the war-ravaged country shows terror groups were attempting to penetrate into the ground handling agency of Air India, an information which has been shared with the Afghan Civil Aviation Authorities as well.
The Air India aircraft also carry air marshals on board and have a special contingent for the security of the plane while on tarmac at the Kabul International airport.
Air India has the distinction of carrying all the United Nations staff to Kabul. Besides the Indian carrier, Pakistan International Airlines and a private afghan airline operate from the Kabul International Airport.
Seven Indians, including three major-rank Army officers, were killed when Taliban suicide bombers carried out a string of attacks in the heart of Kabul on February 26, in yet another incident targeting Indian interests in Afghanistan.
The Indian assets in Afghanistan have been a constant cause of worry and efforts were set afoot to provide security to its nationals prompting the government to rework the security plan for its citizens working there.
The government has already augmented presence of security personnel by pooling in 40 additional ITBP commandos to secure its people and installations in the war-hit country.
They will be deployed in the Indian missions, a few others would be stationed in guest houses frequently used by Indians involved in development work.
About 4,000 Indians are engaged in reconstruction projects in health, power, roads and social sector across Afghanistan under the $1.3 billion assistance programme.
India has already halted operations of its medical mission in Kabul because of lack of adequate personnel as one of its 11 members was killed and four others injured.