NSG prepares for hijack threat
India has put its elite commando force, the NSG, on high alert and stationed helicopters at its base for quick movement of troops in view of “credible” intelligence that Pakistan-based terrorist groups plan to hijack an Indian commercial aircraft in south Asia. Manish Tiwari and Aloke Tikku report.india Updated: Jan 23, 2010 00:44 IST
India has put its elite commando force, the National Security Guard (NSG), on high alert and stationed helicopters at its base for quick movement of troops in view of “credible” intelligence that Pakistan-based terrorist groups plan to hijack an Indian commercial aircraft in south Asia.
The Home Ministry had sounded an alert — reportedly based on Western intelligence — on Wednesday and followed it up with another on Thursday.
According to the inputs, groups linked to the Al Qaeda, Lashkar and Jamaat-ud-Dawa plan to hijack an Air India plane operating in any of the SAARC countries — India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan, Pakistan.
“We suspect there could be an attempt to target one of our airlines, especially one flying abroad. We have alerted our agencies on anti-hijacking measures,” UK Bansal, special secretary (internal security) at the ministry, said on Friday.
“Helicopters from the Border Security Force have already been requisitioned by the NSG,” a ministry official who didn’t want to be named said.
“The threat is credible and imminent,” another official said. “There is some more information we’re holding back to shore up our defence mechanisms.”
To make the skies safer, sky marshals (armed NSG commandos in plainclothes) will be placed on flights believed to be high risk and all those boarding flights will be frisked at ladder point.
“Necessary measures have been undertaken by all agencies in charge of security,” a Civil Aviation Ministry spokeswoman said.
“Hundreds of NSG men are already deployed on flights operating in sensitive airports. The deployment is in large numbers but we can’t share further details,” a senior NSG official told HT.
Thursday’s advisory followed intelligence reports that Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operatives in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir had sourced paragliding equipment for 50 people from China. But security officials said this was a long-term threat. “They will first train their men and then push them into India. Also, paragliding needs strong winds, which implies an attack on a coastal city,” a Home Ministry official said.