Saturday, September 24, 2011

Plane from Hubli a threat to Mumbai airport?

MUMBAI: A private plane taking off from Karnataka's Hubli airport could be used to carry out a terror strike at Mumbai airport, authorities have been warned. Security agencies said fears of such an attack remained till November 15. Earlier, they had issued an attack-by-plane alert but didn't specify from where it could come.

Guidelines issued in the alert state that access control and security arrangements at the Kalina (VIP) gate and other gates leading to terminal areas and parked aircraft may be re-assessed. Accordingly, security has been tightened at the Mumbai airport.

The security agencies are also examining whether any flight request for a private aircraft from Hubli to Mumbai airport has been made within November 15. "Any permission to use private aircraft from Hubli to Mumbai may be denied unless the bona fides are very well established," the alert said.

The warning added that the attackers may try "action" like 9/11, but didn't identify any group or groups that may mount the strike. Air traffic controllers at the domestic and international terminals in the city have been put on high alert. It further stated that arrangements would be necessary at Juhu airport to ensure that a helicopter or a plane doesn't take off from there and serves as a missile for the air-borne attack.

The alert gave three possibilities for the attack. First, a private aircraft could hit the main terminal building. Second, terrorists may gain entry through the VIP gate and a private aircraft could be taken over. It could take off and return immediately for a direct strike on the terminal building. Third, a four-wheeler, most likely a truck, packed with explosives could be driven through the Kalina gate and rammed into the terminal building.

"We have passed on this information to the concerned agencies and are closely working on the security arrangements. The alert clearly indicates the November 15 deadline, so we have to be on high alert. We cannot take any chances," said a senior security official.

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