As Mumbai Airport continues to be troubled with hoax calls about terror threats, security agencies have now become serious about cracking down on the pranksters.
Security officials at the airport said that cops are now arresting prank callers to send a strong message that terror threat hoaxes will not be tolerated. Pic/Thinkstock
In the past few weeks alone, cops have arrested two prank callers in the hope that strong action will discourage others from similar acts. Though such threats are eventually found to be false, the airport is still forced to go on high alert as a precaution, causing major problems for the authorities.
“The arrests are a clear message to all those playing pranks on airlines or airport authorities. Each word of theirs is taken seriously and they will be arrested for it. These calls have been a major concern for not only all the security agencies at the airport, but also the airlines and the entire staff here,” said a senior security officer at Mumbai Airport.
On March 21, at about 7.20 pm, an unidentified male caller called the toll-free number to Air India’s call centre Sutherland Global Services, Thane. The caller said he wanted to book a ticket for Agartala (IXA) to Newark (EWR) for March 25 and then stated, “Air India ke Mumbai office ya Mumbai airport me bomb fatne wala hai.”
He disconnected his call without disclosing his location, but the call centre staff informed the Air India’s regional security control, as well as the airport security agencies. An FIR was lodged against an unknown person at the Srinagar police station in Thane. Barely 24 hours later, the caller was traced and identified as Arijit Chakraborty, a 17-year-old student at the Polytechnic (Computer) Institute in Agartala, Tripura. He confessed to making the hoax call during investigation.
A week later, about 6.60 pm on March 28, a caller who identified himself as Sumit Singh made three calls to Air India’s call centre. In the first call, he said he had gone to meet his friend at the airport when saw some suspicious-looking people and overheard them discussing a plan to plant a bomb at the airport or Air India office in Mumbai.
He then called back with more details he said there were six people in Lucknow aged between 25 and 36 years, who were about to blast a bomb. Just a minute later, he called a third time and said that the story was false. He said his friend had told him the story as a joke and that he had believed it.
As a precaution, security agencies at the airport still went on alert and geared up for any possible mishap. However, they told the Lucknow police about the caller and it was later learnt that the cops arrested the caller in Lucknow.
There have been a total of eight hoaxes from January to March this year alone. These include two ISIS threat messages found scribbled on the walls of washrooms at Terminals 1 and 2. Ahead of the new year as well, the airport had received another eight threat calls in November and December.
Most of these calls were received by the Air India call centre in Thane. “None of these callers were caught, probably because the threat calls were made via the Internet,” said a security officer at the airport.