On the eve of US President Barack Obama’s two-day visit to Mumbai, there was panic at the city airport late on Thursday night due to a bomb scare on an incoming flight.
A Delta Airlines flight from Amsterdam with 240 passengers made an emergency landing at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at 11 pm after an unidentified object was spotted in the cargo hold of the aircraft.
The aircraft was taken to an isolated bay after it landed and all passengers were disembarked before an anti-explosive squad searched the plane and the cargo hold.
The emergency for fire and rescue was withdrawn after 28 minutes even as the anti-bomb squad conducted the search, which was on till the time of going to press.
Airport officials in the city were informed of the scare by the airlines staff from Amsterdam airport while the flight was in midair. Subsequently, the matter was reported to the air traffic control (ATC), which alerted other agencies.
An airport spokesperson, who confirmed the incident, said, “Full emergency was declared at the airport as the Delta Airlines Amsterdam-Mumbai flight number 70 was given clearance for emergency landing because of a suspected unidentified object spotted in the cargo hold.”
However, according to sources, the emergency landing could well be a mock security drill conducted by the US Secret Service ahead of Obama’s visit.
Earlier in the day, the Secret Service and US Marines had conducted several mock security drills in south Mumbai, where the US President will stay on Saturday and Sunday.
Security agencies at the airport reacted swiftly to the scare on Thursday, as on Wednesday, the Centre had directed all air and sea ports to thoroughly check any cargo coming from Yemen and Somalia in the wake of detection of two US-bound parcel bombs sent from Yemen in an alleged al-Qaeda plot.
Packages addressed to synagogues in Chicago and holding the hard-to-detect explosive PETN hidden in ink toner cartridges were uncovered in Dubai and Britain’s East Midlands Airport last week, sparking a global security alert.