Hijack scare peters out at Delhi; passengers breath easy (Third Lead)

February 1st, 2009 - 11:54 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 1 (IANS) A plane hijack scare at Delhi airport that kept security and intelligence officials rivetted for over three hours ended Sunday evening with three unruly passengers being taken into detention, but officials said only a probe will reveal full details.An emergency landing of a flight at Delhi airport Sunday afternoon created a scare as the pilot reported suspected hijackers on board after some passengers’ misbehaviour. But the crisis blew over later in the evening.

Security forces rushed to the Indira Gandhi International Airport after the pilot of an Indigo flight E664 from Goa, carrying 163 passengers and six crew on board, reported suspected hijackers on board.

“At 5.15 p.m., the pilot of the Indigo flight E664 reported to Air Traffic Control (ATC) that there are a couple of passengers who were behaving aggressively and threatening to hijack the plane,” Civil Aviation Secretary M. Madhavan Nambiar told reporters here.

“The plane was given priority and it landed at 5.29 p.m. The plane was taken to an isolated bay and was cordoned off by the National Security Guard (NSG) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF),” Nambiar added.

“The Committee of Secretaries on Anti-Hijacking met immediately thereafter in the presence of Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar” to discuss the issue, he said.

Nambiar added that all “precautionary measures were activated” and the passengers and the crew members were allowed to disembark the aircraft after the security officials completed necessary checks.

“All passengers are safe,” he said.

The exact details of the incident will come out only when investigations were complete, Nambiar added.

According to highly placed airport sources, the pilot sent an alert when the plane was in Jaipur airspace following the dispute between a passenger and an airhostess.

The security agencies have detained three people, including a woman, for questioning, CISF sources said, adding that their identities were not being disclosed.

As the plane landed in Delhi, it was taken to the isolated bay in the Technical Area. At least 30 commandos of the CISF formed the outer cordon around the aircraft while the elite NSG commandos took the inner position. Delhi Police’s quick reaction teams formed the outermost cordon.

The passengers inside the plane, however, were not informed about the situation and asked to remain seated inside the aircraft. They were told about the incident only after 30-40 minutes when they asked why they were not being allowed to deboard.

“We were told that due to security reasons we cannot leave the plane,” Caren, a passenger who did not give her surname, later told reporters.

The security agencies, which have received a precise hijack threat alert at Delhi airport Jan 22, took all precautionary measures and ensured that the plane was free from any terrorists.

NSG personnel moved inside the plane and carried out a minute inspection before the passengers were allowed to disembark at 8 p.m.

Intelligence agencies screened the passengers thoroughly and questioned them before allowing them to collect their luggage and leave the airport.

“It all happened due to a quarrel between some passengers, including women, with the air hostess. The man, who is in police custody, lay down on the floor of the aircraft and started doing some drama,” Vishambhar, a passenger, told reporters outside the airport.

Earlier, Caren told reporters on her mobile phone from inside the plane: “We don’t know if it is hijack or security drill. There is no activity inside the aircraft but there is a lot of movement outside the aircraft.”

“If it is a security drill, I will request such a thing never take place in future. It is a torture to passengers,” she added.

The airline said in a written statement that every passenger on board was safe.

Following the hijack alert at the airport, flight movements at the airport were disrupted for some time.

“We were not allowed to debaord the plane for 30 minutes because of the situation,” said Seema Misra, who returned to Delhi in an Indian Airlines flight.

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