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No fly zone over fortress Hyderabad on Friday

Authorities have declared the city a no-fly zone for the four-and-a-half hours that Bush is here.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2006 12:37 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

For four-and-a-half hours on Friday, this southern city will turn into an impregnable fortress when US President George W Bush comes calling with flights likely to be rescheduled and American commandos monitoring the skies from the ATC.

Unprecedented security arrangements are in place as American personnel conduct security drills and aerial reconnaissance exercises ahead of the visit of one of the world's most-protected man, who lands in New Delhi Wednesday evening and visits this Andhra Pradesh capital on Friday.

Sikorsky Vh-3D helicopters were seen hovering over the city skies, checking the take-off and landing procedures.

Bush and his wife Laura, who will land by Air Force One here at 9.30 am on Friday, will fly in choppers of the presidential helicopter squadron HM10-1 to Acharya NG Ranga Agriculture University at Rajendernagar and then to Indian School of Business (ISB), Gacchibowli. Both venues are on the city outskirts.

After interacting with farmers, agricultural scientists and women members of thrift groups at the university and with young entrepreneurs at ISB, Bush will fly back to the airport and return to the national capital.

Authorities have declared the city a no-fly zone for the four-and-a-half hours thatBush is here.

Security on the ground will be equally impenetrable.

The ITC Grand Kakatiya and Sheraton Towers, the five-star hotel located about two km from airport and just opposite the official residence of Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, has already turned into a command centre for the Americans.

The centre, equipped with state-of-the-art gadgetry such as that in the White House, will monitor both the venues. It has seamless contacts with satellites and hotlines to the White House to tackle any eventuality.

The Bush team has taken 115 out of 188 rooms of the hotel. Members of the team are also staying in other five-star hotels. A media centre for international mediapersons accompanying Bush has been opened at Fortune Khatriya Hotel.

About 400 Secret Service agents, security officials, pilots and engineers of Air Force One, communication experts and other staff of the president have been camping here for the last one week with tonnes of equipment, hi-fi gadgets, two military aircraft, six choppers and dozens of limousines.

During the entire operation, they kept every arrangement under wraps, not even revealing details to the local police. "They don't trust anybody here," said a police official.

The security team has already sanitised ISB and the university and made them out of bounds for people while local police are combing the 20 km radius around the venues.

People in the university campus have been told to either shift out of the area or remain indoors from Thursday.

Though the list of people with whom Bush will be interacting was furnished by the state authorities, American security personnel are cross-checking every minute detail.

The passes for invitees, including for top officials of the government, university and ISB are yet to be issued. Even the mediapersons to cover the two events were selected by the American team.

Initially, only eight local mediapersons were allowed. After a request from the chief minister's office, seven more were accommodated but they exclude several national newspapers, news agencies and television channels.

The security arrangements are on an unprecedented scale as the city is considered as one of the country's most sensitive places with Maoist groups and local terror modules posing a threat.

Police have busted many terrorist modules of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence and terror groups backed by it here during last few years.

The shutdown call given by Muslim organisations on Friday and the protests planned by them and Left parties and their affiliated outfits have put the city police on edge.

Since the Muslim-majority old city has witnessed violence on many such occasions in the past, police fear trouble during demonstrations and have not yet given permission for rallies and other protest demonstrations.

Bill Clinton had visited the city when he was US President in 2000 and had travelled by road.

First Published: Mar 01, 2006 12:37 IST