Abandoned bags put Mumbai airport on alert

Two bags — later found containing nothing but clothes — were located on departure gate 1 yesterday; last week, a hoax call to the Air India call centre created panic at the airport

A day before 26/11’s 7th anniversary, Mumbai airport was rattled by the presence of an abandoned bag near the departure gate no 1 of the domestic terminal. Authorities cordoned off the gate and called in the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS). The squad found only clothes in the bag and declared it a hoax.

All the passengers waiting to check in for their flights had to stand in long queues, as only departure gate 2 was made operational for 30 minutes
All the passengers waiting to check in for their flights had to stand in long queues, as only departure gate 2 was made operational for 30 minutes

Officials say that extra care and time was taken to handle the situation due to the high alert being followed at the airport after a threat call last Friday. After yesterday’s incident extra security personnel from various agencies have been deployed at the terminal.

Meanwhile, passengers had to stand in long queues, as only departure gate 2 was made operational for 30 minutes. Although at 4.10, the BDDS had declared the abandoned bag to be safe after finding some clothes in it, another 30 minutes were taken to normalise the situation.

“For safety and security reasons, we resumed passenger movement only after we received a clean chit from the BDDS. The passengers were not allowed to enter from gate 1 but the situation was handled within half an hour of the BDDS confirmation,” said an airport official.

Last night at 8.20pm, the BDDS received another call from the domestic terminal, regarding an unclaimed bag at the same place where the bag with clothes was kept in the afternoon. An airport official said, “Though the bag did not have anything more than clothes and chargers, it is strange how it was found in the same place where another bag had been kept in the afternoon.”

The threat call received last Friday night has added to the worry of the airport security authorities. A hoax call was received by the Air India Call centre at Thane on November 20 at around 10.30 pm. According to senior airport officials, the airport was immediately alerted and a message was passed to security agencies at both the terminals. According to Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) a Bomb Threat Committee was formed and the call was declared to be a ‘non-specific’ call.

Confirming the call, a senior airport official said, “A threat call received at Air India Call centre stated: Mai ISI atankwadi sanghatna se baat kar raha hu, toh humara plan hai November 28 ko Air India flight ko hijack karana.

(I am a member of the ISI terrorist organisation and we have planned to hijack an Air India flight on November 28)” A police official from Shri Nagar Police Station confirmed that a First Information Report (FIR) has been filed under IPC section 505 (1) (b) and the cops were looking into the matter.

MIAL says
“The number through which this threat call was received appears to be from Madhya Pradesh. However, there has been no specific information regarding the caller. The airport is on high alert till November 28 due to the threat call as well as a precautionary measure of 26/11.

Extra personnel have been deployed at the city side and in the terminal premises of domestic and international terminals,” explained a senior airport official from Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd. (MIAL).

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