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Updated: January 23, 2010 09:22 IST

Airports put on red alert

Vinay Kumar
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Following intelligence inputs on possible hijack threat from terrorists, all Air India planes have been put on maximum alert. File photo: Mohammed Yousuf
The Hindu
Following intelligence inputs on possible hijack threat from terrorists, all Air India planes have been put on maximum alert. File photo: Mohammed Yousuf

The Centre on Friday ordered further strengthening of security at all airports and deployed sky marshals on certain flights after intelligence inputs warned that there was a possibility of terror groups hijacking a flight operating from a South Asian country.

After receiving inputs from security agencies as well as the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Civil Aviation Ministry sounded red alert and directed the stepping up of security arrangements at all concerned airports and airlines.

“Following the Ministry’s directives, the level of security to counter threat perception has been upgraded and all necessary measures have been undertaken by the agencies in-charge of Civil Aviation security, including strengthening of anti-hijacking measures,” official spokesperson of the Civil Aviation Ministry said here.

As part of stepped-up security measures at airports, the spokesperson added, there will also be deployment of sky marshals on certain flights; introduction of stepladder frisking as an additional precaution and all other necessary steps with regard to the safety and security of passengers.

“As per practice, Intelligence agencies inform the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) on various intelligence inputs from time to time. Based on such inputs from BCAS, the airline’s security department, headed by a senior IPS officer, coordinates with various governmental agencies, including BCAS, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to take requisite security measures,” the spokesperson said.

State-run Air India also confirmed that it has already initiated action at concerned airports to beef up security for countering any possible threat.

Air India spokesman said the carrier would like to assure passengers booked on flights operated by it that they need not have any apprehension with regard to security as adequate measures have been taken in consultation with concerned Central and State level security agencies.

Air India’s security standards are incidentally regarded as amongst the finest in the industry, the spokesman pointed out.

Airports have been in a state of maximum alert over the past one month when the festival season had set in, further security measures, including deployment of sky marshals on certain sectors and anti-hijacking alert, have been sounded this time around.

Official sources in the Home Ministry said that intelligence agencies have received “credible indications” that terror groups might hijack a flight operating from any of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations to India.

As Air India is the national flag carrier, the threat perception to it is always higher. Central para-military forces have also been ordered to be deployed at strategic points at sensitive airports as well as around vital installations.

Latest anti-hijacking alert comes just three days prior to Republic Day celebrations across the country, particularly in the Capital where VVIPs and foreign dignitaries also witness a military parade to mark the occasion.

Only a week ago, the Home Ministry has issued an advisory to seven States — Bihar, U.P., Assam, Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal and Karnataka — warning them of a possible terror attack around Republic Day.

The alert came close on the heels of visiting U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates who cautioned that India faced threat from Al Qaeda and its affiliates who were out to destabilise the region and trigger a war between India and Pakistan.

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