A Dubai-bound Emirates flight, with 356 passengers and crew on board, was grounded for four hours here on Sunday after an anonymous phone call shortly before the takeoff warned about the presence of a ‘terrorist’ on board.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the call was a hoax, a police official said.
A businessman and his wife, travelling to Dubai to attend a wedding, were detained for interrogation.
“Emirates Airlines flight EK 505 Mumbai-Dubai was grounded this morning [Sunday morning] after we received a call claiming that one of the passengers, Shahbaz Khan, was a terrorist,” a spokesperson of the Mumbai International Airport said.
The city police are on the look-out for Amjad, Shahbaz Khan’s son. “Shahbaz and his wife are continuously stating that Amjad must have made the call, as they are embroiled in a property dispute,” a senior police officer said.
The anonymous call to the cargo supervisor of the flight by a man identifying himself as Suresh Chavan was traced to Andheri. The police said the caller claimed that he had overheard someone saying that Shahbaz was an ‘Al-Qaeda’ terrorist. “We are on the look-out for Amjad to ascertain his location in the morning,” the officer said.
The passengers and the crew were deplaned and searches conducted.
“Shahbaz and his wife were handed over to the police after which the aircraft was cleared for takeoff. The flight took off at 1404 hours,” the spokesperson said.
“Shahbaz’s wife Waheeda, a heart patient, was sent home. We are questioning Shahbaz,” a police official said.
After the alert, the aircraft was pushed back from the runway at 0959 hours when the Air Traffic Control informed the Mumbai International Airport about a security hazard on board, the spokesperson said. The plane was taxied to Tango Bay. All the passengers were deplaned. They and their luggage were thoroughly checked.