Monday, November 13, 2006

India Hijack Alert

US-bound flights from India face high Qaeda risk India renewed a high security alert at its airports yesterday following a warning that the Al Qaeda terror network could try and hijack US-bound passenger flights, officials said. “We sounded an alert after the Federal Bureau of Investigation forwarded an e-mail that spoke of the possibility of an Al Qaeda attempt to hijack US-bound flights from India,” a home ministry official said. The official, who did not wanted to be named, said the e-mail written by an “unknown entity” appeared to have originated from India and was received by the FBI Saturday at its headquarters in the US. “While the ‘target’ was US-bound flights, the nature of threat mentioned in the e-mail was ‘hijacking’”, he added. “All airlines have been asked to request passengers to cooperate with the enhanced security and to reach airports a little ahead of time,” the Press Trust of India quoted an unnamed official as saying.The heightened measures included last-minute special checks before embarkation, increased security around airports and extra baggage screening, it added. India tightened security Thursday at airports in the southern cities of Coimbatore, Madurai, Chennai, Bangalore and Thiruvanthapuram. The move came after the discovery in Chennai airport of a letter written in the local Tamil language warning of car bomb attacks by the Al-Qaeda network. The letter, found by a cleaner, said 10-man Al Qaeda militant squads would attack airports with car bombs. Security was also increased at the busy airports in the Indian capital, New Delhi, and the country’s financial hub, Mumbai. Islamic guerrillas waging a separatist campaign in Kashmir often stage attacks elsewhere in India, but so far none of the groups has claimed any affiliation with Al-Qaeda. India bolstered security at its airports after Islamic rebels in 1999 hijacked a Delhi-bound Indian Airlines plane and forced it to land in the then Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. More than 160 passengers were later swapped for a clutch of Islamic guerrillas held in Indian prisons.