Mystery bags full of stones keep Mumbai airport security busy

Jan 15, 2015, 10:10 IST | Neha LM Tripathi

While Mumbai airport remains in a state of high alert, the airport security is in a state of confusion since Saturday, as the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has been coming across unclaimed baggage almost every day at the city side of the domestic terminal (T1).

CISF personnel at the city side of the airport have been strictly ordered to not only profile passengers but also be careful of the baggage they carry. File pic
CISF personnel at the city side of the airport have been strictly ordered to not only profile passengers but also be careful of the baggage they carry. File pic

What is really bizarre about it, however, is that several times the bags have contained nothing but stones. While they are unsure of how seriously to take the repeated episodes, because of the recent terror threats, the airport authorities cannot afford to ignore even the bags full of stones, and so their workload has increased.

Since January 10, at least eight such instances were registered, when the CISF spotted unclaimed bags and had to call in the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS). Apart from stones, some of the bags also held clothes or household utensils. So far, the CISF has been unable to identify or track down the owners of the bags, as in each of the cases, the baggage was left in spots far away from the CCTV cameras, leading to unclear images.

The first episode took place on Saturday, around 8.30 pm, when the CISF alerted the BDDS of an unclaimed cloth bundle lying near a restaurant inside Terminal 1. According to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), the BDDS cordoned off the area within a 100-metre radius of the spot and carried out its procedure, only to discover that the bundle contained stones.

As the contents were not objectionable, the bundle, and all the other bags were handed over to the Duty Terminal Manager (DTM), either to be deposited in the lost and found section or to be disposed. An official, who was present on the spot, said, “It is still possible that a passenger might have left or forgotten his/her bag, but why would someone fill their bag with stones?”

On their toes
Confirming the incidents, the CISF PRO, Hemendra Singh said, “We are on our toes each time an alert is raised in and around the airport. There can be various reasons for these bags being found, however the CISF is on high alert and is frisking and enquiring the most minute movement in the airport premises.”

“The CISF personnel at the city side of the airport have been strictly ordered to not only profile passengers but also be careful of the baggage they carry,” a senior airport officer told mid-day.

He added that the incidents of unclaimed bags was being watched closely, especially since the bags were all planted in areas in the CCTV cameras’ blind spot. That all the incidents had taken place after dark only make identification harder, he said.

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