Mumbai airport on high alert after EgyptAir hijack
Officials in Mumbai leaving nothing unchecked after explosions at Brussels airport and hijack of EgyptAir flightmumbai Updated: Mar 30, 2016 00:39 IST
Mumbai airport was put on high alert on Tuesday, following the hijack of a Cairo-bound EgyptAir flight with 82 passengers on board.
EgyptAir flight MS181 from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus, triggering a hostage situation at Larnaca airport on the island’s south coast.
A week ago, the airport beefed up security arrangements after the twin bomb explosions at Brussels airport. Armed personnel manning watch booths at the airport entrances were increased and patrolling of populated stretches within the terminal and the waiting areas outside was escalated, said officials from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which is in-charge of the airport’s security.
“Such incidents (terror attacks) have become so common that we are on high alert almost throughout the year,” said a senior CISF official requesting anonymity.
Last week was particularly taxing for the security force as they received more than five dozen hoax calls from anonymous callers. On March 22, the day of the Brussels attack, the airport received a call warning of bomb threats to 12 flights in Mumbai. The caller, who identified himself as Mike, a New York native, claimed to have had specific tip-offs, said officials.
“Our security protocol broadly divides threats as specific and non-specific. If the caller names a particular flight it becomes a specific threat which calls for immediate evacuation and thorough inspection of the plane in an isolated bay,” said another official, adding that the whole exercise to declare the flight safe could take up to five hours.
The same caller, who was making calls from the Internet, kept giving different numbers for the next three days. “It was apparent that the calls were a hoax but we had to follow procedures,” added the official.
Airport sources added that frisking at security holds had become more intense, with fliers being asked to put their shoes under the X-ray scanners. The additional caution is being linked to a surge in air travellers owing to the T20 World Cup, added officials. “Celebrity movement has been quite high since the tournament began,” said the official.