AIRPORTS ACROSS the country were put on high alert on Sunday, following a warning sent out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about a possible hijack attempt on flights from India bound for the United States.
A security cordon was immediately placed around the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport at Delhi and all vehicles entering were checked. Vehicles were not allowed to stop in front of the terminals for more than a couple of minutes. Even airport employees were stopped for identity verification. The baggage of airline employees was also checked.
A top security official, who did not wish to be identified, said the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) had issued an advisory to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to put in place more stringent security measures at all airports. The BCAS is the regulatory authority for civil aviation security in India, while the CISF manages security at airports across the country.
The alert from the FBI was received on Saturday evening. According to reports, an internet centre in the US received an e-mail that US-bound flights from India might be hijacked.
The official said the alert was not specific but only a general one. He said the BCAS has advised the CISF to increase security checks which would include “profiling passengers, increased checks of cabin baggages, and apron security of US-bound flights of all airlines”.
Anti-sabotage and anti-hijacking measures are being put in place at all airports and marshals have been deployed at airports. Airlines have asked passengers bound for the US to report four hours before scheduled departure time for boarding and security-check procedures.
S.R. Mehra, commissioner of security, BCAS, told Hindustan Times that no racial and ethnic profiling of passengers would be undertaken. He said, “Profiling in this context means a well-calibrated scientific effort to assess the behaviour of any passenger that may require further investigation.”
Mehra said the measures would be reviewed on a daily basis. He said there was “no cause for alarm for travellers”. CISF’s director general S.I.S. Ahmed said “ the security measures have been intensified” but refused to elaborate.
In Mumbai, the CISF deployed sniffer dogs at the airport. Extra personnel will man the airport at night, when most US-bound flights take off. Other measures being taken include the inspection of vehicles and deployment of plainclothes security personnel to check passengers and baggage.
The alleged hijack threat comes three days after an anonymous letter was found at the Tiruchirapalli airport claiming that Al Qaeda would launch attacks at airports in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
(With inputs from Nilova Roy Choudhury, Sidhartha Roy in Delhi and Lalatendu Mishra in Mumbai)