Airports security redrawn after terror scare at Delhi airport (Fourth lead)

December 5th, 2008 - 8:13 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 5 (IANS) Security arrangements for airports across the country were redrawn Friday following a reported incident of firing at the Delhi airport. However, the government agency responsible for airports security has denied any firing in the airport’s vicinity.Operations at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) were disrupted for about 20 minutes following reports of gunfire around 1.00 a.m.

A civil aviation ministry official told IANS that senior government and security officials met later to review and redraw arrangements for safeguarding airports and other important installations.

The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), which is responsible for supervising the security of all civil aviation installations in the country, Friday evening denied there was any firing incident at the IGIA.

“There is no veracity of the reported incident of firing at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport. An incident of gunshot firing was reported to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel deployed at IGI Airport at around 1.00 a.m. today,” the BCAS said in a statement.

It said the CISF took all necessary steps to check and verify the genuineness of the incident.

“Nothing suspicious has been found. The inquiry into the incident is still going on by all concerned agencies to ascertain if at all there is a miss,” the BCAS said. It also said Delhi Police were probing reports of a Qualis car breaching the security barrier.

BCAS director R.V.P. Sahi was not available for comment.

The civil aviation ministry denied any security lapse at the IGIA.

The IGIA was shut down for about 20 minutes in the wee hours 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 incident, told reporters that he heard at least two gunshots from the direction of the unidentified Qualis car bearing a Haryana registration number.

“I did not see anyone firing, but definitely heard sounds similar to gunshots,” he said.

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

Asked if the Qualis had breached a security barrier at the terminal, the employee said: “Yes, it happened.”

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

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

Delhi Police public relations officer Rajan Bhagat told IANS: “The two gun shots 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.

The CISF too denied the reported firing.

“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 came hours after Civil Aviation Secretary Madhavan Nambiar told reporters Thursday evening that “all necessary steps” were being taken to ensure security at airports following an e-mail threat that specifically mentioned 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 on Dec 6, 1992.

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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