NEW DELHI (AP) - Indian airports were on high alert Friday after
intelligence services received information that al-Qaida-linked
militants were plotting to hijack a plane.
Such an attack would be the first major terror strike against
India since 10 militants rampaged through the city of Mumbai for
three days in November 2008, killing 166 people.
Aviation spokeswoman Moushumi Chakravarty said that the airports
were placed on alert Thursday after the government received
warnings from the intelligence agencies.
A report in The Indian Express newspaper, which Chakravarty confirmed, said intelligence officials had uncovered a plot by
militants linked to al-Qaida and the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba
group to hijack an Air India or Indian Airlines flight destined for
a neighboring South Asian country.
U.K. Bansal, a top home ministry official, said security was
tightened at all airports and passengers were being subjected to
more intense security screenings. The India Express reported that
sky marshals would also be deployed on flights around the region.
Indian media said the hijack threat was uncovered during the
interrogation of Amjad Khwaja, a militant leader belonging to
Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, an extremist group involved in numerous
terror attacks in India.
Khwaja was arrested in the southern Indian city of Chennai last
week and was being questioned by Indian police.
The terror alert came just days after U.S. Defense Secretary
Robert Gates warned that a syndicate of terror groups affiliated
with al-Qaida was trying to foment a new war between India and
The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought three wars, and efforts
to resolve their long-running dispute over the Kashmir region were
frozen after the Pakistan-based militants attacked Mumbai in 2008.
Gates praised India for its restraint after the Mumbai attack,
but expressed concern that the government would have a hard time
reacting so cautiously if it were hit again.
In December 1999, Islamic militants hijacked an Air India flight
from Nepal's capital, Katmandu, to Kandahar in southern
The hijacking ended when New Delhi released four Islamic
militants in exchange for 167 passengers and crew.