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India on terror alert
Published on 23 Jan. 2010 12:38 AM IST
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LeT para-gliders may target India: Intelligence Pakistan-based Islamist militants were planning major strikes in India after acquiring para-gliding equipments, and were also plotting to target an Indian flight, especially one bound for or returning from another South Asian country, intelligence inputs suggested Friday, setting off alarm bells in the government. Security was put on high alert at airports across India and sky marshals ordered on flights amid reports that the para-gliders may be used to carry out airborne suicide attacks in the country. The intelligence inputs ahead of the Republic Day celebrations prompted authorities to ensure a tight security around all vital installations. “Inputs suggest that Lashkar-e-Taiba (a Pakistan-based terror outfit) had bought para-gliding equipments, some in Europe, which could be used to launch terror attacks not only in India but other South Asian countries,” an official in the Cabinet Secretariat said. “We are ready to counter any threat. We have equipments ready to detect and fight any violation of our air space,” the official said. The threat about a possible aerial assault came hours after inputs suggested that Islamist outfits in Pakistan were planning to hijack an Indian aircraft. “As far as the ministry is concerned, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security has issued a high-alert advisory to all carriers and airports across the country,” a spokesperson for the civil aviation ministry said. “This requires security agencies, airlines and airport authorities to adopt the entire drill that is already specified for hijack alerts,” the spokesperson told IANS, adding that sky marshals on planes and multi-point frisking were part of the drill. “Following the Ministry’s directives, the level of security to counter threat perception has been upgraded and all necessary measures have been undertaken by the agencies in-charge of Civil Aviation security, including strengthening of anti-hijacking measures,” official spokesperson of the Civil Aviation Ministry said here. Sources in the aviation security agency said an alert has already been sounded in view of Republic Day celebrations next week. Security has been enhanced after reports of a possible hijack of a flight from or going to a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) country. Air India spokesperson Jitender Bhargava said the intelligence reports were being looked into. “We are looking into the intelligence inputs. We are taking action accordingly,” Bhargava told IANS. Official sources confirmed that action has already been taken on the red alert, with paramilitary forces deployed at all airports, especially in the northeast, and army units near the airports asked to stand by. “With this specific threat now, all the passengers of flights going to SAARC countries have to go through secondary ladder point checking just before embarkation,” a home ministry official said. Currently this procedure is followed for passengers to the US. Besides India, the SAARC countries comprise Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. “There will also be deployment of sky marshals on specified flights. Stepladder frisking is being done as a precaution and all efforts are being made to ensure the safety and security of passengers,” the home ministry official added. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), responsible for the security at airports across the country, has also been asked to keep a closer vigil on passengers at the security hold area, especially those travelling with the national carrier. “As per practice, Intelligence agencies inform the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) on various intelligence inputs from time to time. Based on such inputs from BCAS, the airline’s security department, headed by a senior IPS officer, coordinates with various governmental agencies, including BCAS, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to take requisite security measures,” the spokesperson said. Last week, the home ministry asked seven states -- Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi -- to remain alert to prevent any possible terrorist attack. The civil aviation ministry has also advised all states to beef up security at vital installations, while the home ministry has asked them to take special measures to protect VIPs and other distinguished people at airports. The government regularly issues advisory to states, especially before Republic Day, Independence Day and major religious festivals, to remain on alert and take measures to thwart attempts of militant organisations and Maoists. The threat to state-run carrier Air India is always higher compared to private airlines, officials said.

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