Security arrangements being redrawn after Delhi airport terror scare (Third Lead)

December 5th, 2008 - 4:30 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 5 (IANS) The government Friday began the process of redrawing security arrangements for airports across the country even as the civil aviation ministry denied any security lapse at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), where operations were disrupted for about 20 minutes following reports of gunfire.The civil aviation ministry denied that any untoward incident had occurred at IGIA here. However, an official in the ministry told IANS that senior government and security officials met after the terror scare to review and redraw arrangements for safeguarding airports and other important installations

The IGIA was shut down for about 20 minutes early Friday following reports of gunfire near the arrival terminal. The alarm was raised after a white Qualis car reportedly breached a security barrier and tried to approach the arrival terminal from a restricted road around 1.10 a.m.

Vibhash, a 25-year-old employee of the Le Meridian hotel who was present at the airport during the IGI incident told reporters that he heard at least two gunshots from the direction of the unidentified Qualis car bearing a Haryana registration number.

“I have not seen any one firing but definitely heard sounds similar to gunshots,” he said.

“There was firing at the international terminal at around 1.25 am, but nobody was injured,” an airport employee told IANS on condition of anonymity.

When asked if the Qualis had breached a security barrier at the terminal, she said: “Yes, it happened.”

Following reports of gunshots, officials of the CISF and Delhi Police, both responsible for the security at the airport, swung into action and surrounded the airport.

The gates of the airport were immediately closed and an intensive search was launched. Three international flights were delayed because of the incident. The flight operations have resumed now as per schedule.

Delhi Police public relations officer Rajan Bhagat told IANS: “The two gun shots being heard by CISF constables or others and the white Qualis speeding away are isolated incidents. They may or may not be linked.”

“The car has not been apprehended as yet. Investigations and search for the car are on,” he added.

However, the CISF denied that any such incident had occurred.

“There is no proof of the reported firing. In our combing operations, we found no eyewitness to the alleged firing nor did we find any rounds of gunshots. There are no incidents of injury. Everything is normal,” Udayan Banerjee, CISF deputy inspector general, told reporters.

“This was not a terror attack. We are taking every precautionary measure and there is no need to panic,” Banerjee added.

The terror scare occurred a few hours after civil aviation secretary Madhavan Nambiar told reporters at a press conference Thursday evening that “all necessary steps” were being taken to ensure security at airports.

R.V.P. Sahi, commissioner of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), had also said that further steps were being taken to augment security. However, they did not comment on the exact extent of threat to airports or the nature of security measures being taken.

An e-mail threat Thursday specifically mentioned that an attack on Indian airports would take place between Dec 3 and 7. The e-mail was tracked by the Interpol to Lahore in Pakistan and was sent by a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative.

A security official, requesting anonymity, said there were specific intelligence inputs that militants from Pakistan or Afghanistan were planning to strike airports (in India) ahead of the anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

It is feared that the Deccan Mujahideen, a hitherto unknown terror outfit that claimed responsibility for the Mumbai attacks last week, would execute the air attacks on the airports as well.

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