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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

First cockroach, now bomb threat: Man detained over Jet Airways flight hijack scare a repeat offender

A printed note, in Urdu and English, said the flight had 12 hijackers on board and a bomb in the cargo area, and should be flown straight to PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir).

india Updated: Oct 31, 2017 12:43 IST
Azaan Javaid
Azaan Javaid
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad/New Delhi
A Jet Airways passenger aircraft takes off from the airport in Ahmedabad.
A Jet Airways passenger aircraft takes off from the airport in Ahmedabad. (REUTERS FILE)

A wealthy businessman from Gujarat has been detained in connection with a bomb scare that forced a Jet Airways flight to execute an emergency landing at Ahmedabad airport on Monday morning.

A note, which threatened of a fatal explosion in the hold unless the passengers were flown to Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, was found in a lavatory of the aircraft flying from Mumbai to New Delhi. Jet Airways, in a statement, said Flight 9W339 was diverted after the “declaration of an emergency as per established security procedures, due to the detection of an on board security threat”.

Incidentally, this is not the first instance where authorities have accused the suspect – identified as Birju Salla – of “disturbing the peace” in a Jet Airways flight. Home ministry sources said the businessman, a resident of Rajula town in Amreli district, had earlier created a ruckus over a cockroach allegedly found in his food.

“The fact that the insect wasn’t cooked made the crew suspect that it may have been planted. The matter, however, was resolved with minimal fuss,” a senior government official said on the condition of anonymity.


As this incident was far more serious, civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju has instructed all airlines to put Birju on their no-fly lists until the matter is investigated.

Interestingly, the authorities were able to zero in on Birju on account of a roll of toilet paper that had “gone missing” from the plane’s restroom. Within minutes of the flight taking off from Mumbai around 3 am, an air hostess realised that the commode required a new roll of toilet paper. Upon her return, she found the threat note lying in the washroom. Only Birju had entered the lavatory in the interim period.

“The suspect used the washroom right after the air hostess exited it. She found the note upon returning with a new roll of toilet paper,” a home ministry official said.

The air hostess immediately informed the pilot, who – in turn – alerted the authorities on the ground to their situation. Security checks were conducted midair, and after the plane’s landing at Ahmedabad airport around 3.45 am. Airport authorities and the local police came in to investigate, and everybody aboard the plane – comprising 115 passengers and seven crew members – were questioned for hours. It was then that the air hostess described the sequence of events that led to the bomb scare, bringing Birju into focus.

The authorities are contemplating filing a criminal case against the suspect. If Birju is placed on the no-fly list, he would be the first one to be penalised ever since new rules enforced in September gave airlines the right to ban unruly passengers for periods ranging from three months to two years.

First Published: Oct 30, 2017 17:27 IST