Security upped after air borne attack warning in India (Lead)

December 4th, 2008 - 6:18 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 4 (IANS) Security at major airports in India was heightened Thursday after warnings of hijacking and terror strikes from the Deccan Mujahideen, a hitherto unknown terror outfit that claimed the responsibility of the Mumbai attacks last week, officials here said.Top security officials met here in the wake of an e-mail threatening to attack three major Indian airports - Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore, sources said.

The e-mail also specifically mentioned that the attack would take place between Dec 3 and 7, a government official said.

According to the sources, the e-mail was sent to the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in New Delhi, following which the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) stepped up the security arrangements at these airports.

Airport officials here refused to divulge details about the e-mail but the sources said the e-mail was tracked by the Interpol to Lahore city in Pakistan sent by a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative.

An official, requesting anonymity, said: “We had 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.”

The centuries-old Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, was demolished by Hindu activists Dec 6, 1992, claiming the site was the birthplace of Hindu Lord Ram. The incident led to nationwide protests by Muslims and a spate of communal riots in the country.

The unprecedented security measures at the three major airports and 13 others across the country come following the Nov 26 terror attacks in Mumbai that left 172 people dead.

The airports have been categorised as “hyper sensitive” by security agencies, the official said.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has been asked to coordinate in air surveillance at airports, according to the official.

IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal Fali H. Major, after a function here on the occasion of Navy Day, said the air force was prepared. “This is based on a warning which has been received by the government and we are prepared as usual.”

Sniffer dogs were deployed at some airports and sky marshals have been deputed on planes flying on sensitive routes, the official added.

At IGI Airport here, passengers and their luggage were thoroughly checked.

A former official of the BCAS told IANS on condition of anonymity that if terror attacks in Mumbai were any indication, the threat to airports would rise further.

“Airports are always the first choice for terrorist attacks,” he said. He said Indian airports, even hyper-sensitive airports, do not have a foolproof security.

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