Security at airports across the country was boosted on Saturday after Air India’s control centre in Mumbai received a phone call threatening to hijack one of its planes to Pakistan, PTI reported. The threat came more than a week after 40 Central Reserve Police Force jawans lost their lives in a suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
“A telephonic message received by the station duty office, AI [Air India] AOCC [Airport Operation Control Centre] Mumbai, stating information regarding a threat to Indian Airlines flight getting hijacked to Pakistan on 23.2.2019,” said a note by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security. “In view of the above, APSU [Airport Security Unit]/ASG [Aviation Security Group] and all aircraft operators shall adopt the following [eight] measures with immediate effect.”
Both Airport Security Unit and Aviation Security Group are part of the Central Industrial Security Force, which is responsible for airport security. The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security has directed the CISF to regulate entry to terminal buildings, airside, all operational areas and other aviation facilities, and conduct intensive checks of vehicles entering car parking area “to preclude possibility of car bomb attacks”.
Both the special force and all airlines have been asked to increase screening of passengers, staff, visitors, hold baggage, cargo, cargo terminal, catering, mails, among others. They have been asked to increase surveillance manually as well as through closed-circuit television cameras in and around terminal buildings and operational areas.
Airlines on some sectors, including those bound for Pakistan and the Gulf countries, have been directed to conduct secondary ladder point checks, the Hindustan Times reported. In such checks, passengers are screened just before boarding the plane.
“We have also asked the airlines to start the secondary ladder point checking just before passengers enter the aircraft,” said a senior unidentified CISF official. “We request passengers to reach before time as due to multiple layers of security, queues are expected to be longer.”
The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security note directed that quick reaction team, perimeter patrolling, manning of all cargo gates and vehicle entry gates should be strengthened with strong armed support. The CISF has formed a “sweeping squad” and included staff trained in profiling people. “Their job is to identify suspicious passengers as soon as they enter the airport,” said an unidentified Bureau of Civil Aviation Security official.
The Parliament in 2014 passed the Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill, which lays down new protocol to deal with in the event of an airplane hijack. According to its provisions, those convicted of hijacking can be sentenced for life or even handed out the capital punishment in cases where the offence results in the death of a hostage or of a security personnel.