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Next terror attack from air?

delhi Updated: Jun 23, 2009 02:13 IST
Abhishek Sharan
Abhishek Sharan
Hindustan Times
Next terror attack from air?

The next terror attack might be executed from the air, according to intelligence available with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Possible targets for Pakistan-based terror groups — including the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba — include key defence establishments, including India’s lone aircraft carrier, and high-profile individuals.

The Lashkar had in November 2008 used the sea route to strike multiple locations in Mumbai, leaving more than 180 dead.

Among the terror intercepts recently made by the Intelligence Bureau, the one that’s got the counter-terrorism officials’ attention indicated that “key Lashkar leaders, including its communications chief Zarar Shah, had been studying helicopter charter services of India, especially south India”.

The intercept suggested, said a ministry official who is not authorized to talk, “the LeT’s commanders were mulling using a chartered flight, among other available options, to launch sensational attacks on important attacks.

Shah is currently in the custody of Pakistani authorities for his alleged role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. He had organized the use of Voice Over Internet Telephony services that the Lashkar had used to communicate with its 10-man attack team, according to the Mumbai Crime Branch’s chargesheet.

The intercept, said the officer, indicated a hired/abducted charter flight could be used to target airports and VVIPS.

The specific alert resulted in the ministry alerting around 100 operators of air charter services in the country to “look for individuals with suspicious business requests and flight plans,” the officer said.

A senior official of a Delhi-based charter service provider, who requested anonymity, told HT: “We have been apprised of suspicious passengers and told to intimate the authorities immediately if and when we come across such a case.”

IB sources said it also had intelligence regarding Lashkar plans to launch “suicide attacks by its well-trained operatives on naval targets including India’s lone aircraft carrier, the INS Viraat, the Vizag naval dockyard and the Cochin Shipyard.”

“Adequate preparations have been made by concerned authorities to neutralize such an attack,” he said.