Thursday, October 4, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Hijack that never was
Boeing believed hijacked was only confusion: minister

New Delhi, October 3 
The hijack drama is over, Civil Aviation Minister Shahnawaz Hussain said tonight. Deplaning of passengers has begun, Hussain told reporters at the Civil Aviation Ministry headquarters here.

The minister said it was a "false alarm" triggered by the air traffic control in Ahmedabad.

Only a few hours earlier it had been reported that an Alliance Air Boeing 737 with 52 persons on board, including a six-member crew, was hijacked while on a flight from Mumbai to Delhi shortly after midnight and had landed here. It was said there were two hijackers on board. The plane landed at Delhi airport at 0052 hours (October 4; IST).

The minister said while the cockpit crew of the Alliance Air CD 7444 flight from Mumbai to Delhi believed that the hijackers were in the passengers' cabin, the passengers thought that the hijackers were in the cockpit.

Hussain said ATC Ahmedabad got an anonymous call after which the "confusion" started.

There were 46 passengers on board, besides a six-member crew, including two pilots, he said.

The minister said he would order a thorough probe into the incident.

He also expressed satisfaction that contingency plans had proved "totally effective" and said everybody was safe. 

Hussain said after commandos entered the cockpit it was realised that it was a "false alarm".

However, there were no sky marshals on board the plane, he said.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was in constant touch with the authorities concerned while Home Minister L K Advani was present at the Civil Aviation Ministry headquarters, Hussain said.

Hussain said one of the passengers wanted to enter the cockpit, which created all the confusion.

The passenger claimed to be an officer but carried no I-card, he said.

Till the minister made the announcement, there had been total drama and tension at the airport. National Security Guard commandos had surrounded the aircraft, which was parked at an isolated bay of the airport.

A fuel tanker was parked in front of the aircraft, apparently to ensure that it didn't take off. 

Home Minister L K Advani, Civil Aviation Minister Shahnawaz Hussain and officials of RAW, IB, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Safety and the Airport Authority of India had gone into a crisis management group meeting.

The plane was under the command of Captain Ashwin Bahal, a report from Mumbai said. PTI 

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