Security has been beefed up at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Indian capital of New Delhi after intelligence agencies warned India and Afghanistan of a possible hijack attempt on a Kabul-bound Air India flight. Police in the east Indian city of Kolkata also arrested a man on Sunday for making a threatening call to the state-owned Air India’s office on Saturday, according to local media reports.
According to a report by The Times of India, an Indian daily, the threat perception is based on “specific inputs” received by Indian intelligence agencies that militants linked to the Taliban and the Islamic State group could target India ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit later this month. Obama is slated to attend India’s Republic Day parade on Jan. 26.
Following the intelligence inputs, security has been tightened at airports across the country, including in Delhi and Kolkata, according to local media reports.
“After the alert was issued by central intelligence agencies, all possible security measures are being put in place to prevent a hijack attempt. Security at all airports across the country has been increased,” a government official told The Indian Express, an Indian newspaper.
“We are conducting a second security check of passengers just before they enter the aircraft. Once the passengers are seated in the plane, our crew has been instructed to get the cabin baggage verified with the passengers again,” an Air India official at Indira Gandhi International Airport reportedly said.
Earlier in 1999, an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi with 176 passengers on board was hijacked by militants of the Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and diverted to Kandahar, Afghanistan, which was then under Taliban's control. The hostages were eventually freed after the Indian government released three Islamist militants imprisoned in the country.