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January 22, 2010

Civil Aviation Ministry issues security alerts to airports and airlines

     New Delhi: The Ministry of Civil Aviation has directed all airports and airlines to beef up security following inputs received from security agencies as well as the Ministry of Home Affairs. 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 sviation security, including strengthening of anti-hijacking measures. There will also be deployment of sky marshals on certain flights; introduction of stepladder frisking as an additional precaution and all other necessary steps with regard to the safety and security of the passengers. The orders were passed after Amjad Khwaja, the commander of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) terrorist outfit, who was arrested by the Chennai police on January 18, revealed on Friday plans of a deadly plot to hijack Indian planes. On account of this, all Air India/Indian Airlines flights operating in South Asia have been put on high security alert. Khwaja, who was brought to Hyderabad for further interrogations, told the Hyderabad police that the Islamic fundamentalist groups aligned to the Al-Qaeda or the Lashkar-e-Taiba plan to hijack one such flight. The intelligence sources claimed the target is possibly an Air India/Indian Airlines aircraft operating to and from any one of the SAARC countries and terror strikes can take place anytime in the near future. Meanwhile, the Home Ministry had on Thursday called for an urgent meeting and issued a set of directions aimed at upgrading security, which included deployment of sky marshals on all flights of the carrier operating in the region. The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) has asked all airlines to conduct a mandatory 100 percent secondary ladder point check until January 31 on all aircraft flying between Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Khwaja, a most wanted terrorist, was said to be behind the Hyderabad twin blasts in 2007 and also the Ajmer blasts in 2008. He was also wanted in the sensational 2005 task force office suicide bomb attack case, in which a home guard was killed.
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