Airports across the country have been put on red alert after receiving intelligence alert about a threat to Air India (AI) flights from India to Kabul and an anonymous threat call at the airline’s Kolkata office. This comes only a few weeks before the Republic Day celebrations, where US president Barack Obama will be the chief guest. An official at the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) control room said; “All airports are on red alert. Messages have been sent out to all agencies, including airports and National Security Guards.” Intelligence agencies have reportedly alerted that Air India’s Delhi-Kabul flights could specifically be targeted by hijackers, promoting authorities to enhance security checks of passengers and crew. Intelligence inputs reportedly warned that the hijack could be similar to that of IC 814 in 1999, when an AI flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi was diverted to Kandahar in Afghanistan. Instructions have been sent out to airports and airline operators for secondary frisking and thorough checks of cabin luggage. Additionally, there are orders for commandos to patrol areas adjoining the airport and to increase the number of marshals on flights. Airports have reportedly launched anti-hijacking measures and were carrying out anti-sabotage checks of flights. Quick reaction teams have been kept on standby and AI security staff were keeping a close watch on any suspicious activity. An AI official said that the state-owned airline had received many such alerts in the past, too, and was adequately prepared to handle these kinds of situation. “We keep getting such threats, for which our processes are streamlined. All agencies involved are reviewing the security arrangement,” he said. After the embarrassment of the Kandahar hijack, when Indian authorities were caught unawares and bungled its handling, agencies involved do not want to take any chances this time and are taking the threat seriously.

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Hijack threat: Airports on red alert, security beefed up