M A I N   N E W S

Scare in the air
Bomb-like object in airline cargo
Was wrapped in a newspaper & spotted by cleaners

Examination reveals presence of gunpowder
All 31 persons aboard, including 4 crew members, safe

Thiruvananthapuram, March 21
A crude explosive was found today from the cargo section of a Kingfisher plane that arrived from Bangalore here with 31 persons on board sparking a bomb scare and authorities admitted to a ‘security lapse.’

The presence of the “country-made bomb like object” of the size of a cricket ball containing 30 gms of ‘gunpowder’ and wrapped in two layers of paper, one of which was a page from the Thiruvananthapuram edition of a Malayalam newspaper, raised security concerns after the ATR-72 aircraft landed at the international airport this morning.

The 27 passengers and four crew members on the turboprop plane were safe, officials said.

According to airport security sources, the explosive was spotted by cleaners after the flight landed at 8 am. The aircraft was towed to the isolation bay and the bomb-like object removed and defused by bomb disposal squad of the state police by immersing it in water.

City Police Commissioner M R Ajith Kumar said the explosive could be “some form of nitrate or chloride”.

The exact chemical composition would be known after analysis by forensic experts, he added.

Terming it as a “serious security lapse”, UK Bansal, Special Secretary (Internal Security), said: “The only possibility is that it was put at the time of loading of baggage or at the time when it was being unloaded in Thiruvanathapuram… There was no detonator, no timing device so the bomb could not have gone off by itself.” He said he would not put the blame on any "particular category of staff" till he had more information.

Employees present at the airport were questioned by security agencies. Security officials at Bengaluru International Airport accused the airline for the security lapse, saying responsibility of screening the items put into the hold rests with the respective airline. A thorough check of the aircraft was carried out by security agencies, with the help of local police.

A Kingfisher airlines spokesman said the "unclaimed" package was found during routine security check after passengers were deplaned. The statement made no references to security checks carried out by its staff in Bangalore from where the aircraft departed.

“This is a very serious issue. Kerala police has registered a case and are very seriously looking into it,” Kerala Law Minister M Vijay Kumar said. — PTI




Aviation Ministry orders probe
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 21
The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation has ordered a probe into the security lapse inked to recovery of explosive inside an aircraft at Thiruvananthapuram airport.

Confirming the probe development, a Civil Aviation Ministry official said the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security -- the regulatory authority for aviation security in India — would be conducting the investigation.

But what appears to be truly disturbing is the revelation by the official that despite stringent checks and measures inside the airport area, security in and around cargo hold cannot be called foolproof. “Security around the cargo hold is not so well maintained as many times airlines employ staff without doing proper a background-check,” he said.

Airlines, however, refute this by saying that “strictest possible security checks were carried out on all staff”.

Incidentally, the official statement from Kingfisher Airlines has no mention of a “bomb” being found on its aircraft. A statement by the airlines said: “Shortly after Kingfisher Airlines flight IT 4731 landed in Thiruvananthapuram and after all 27 guests on board had deplaned, a routine security check was being carried out. During this security check, an unclaimed package was found. The matter was immediately reported to the authorities, who have removed the package from the aircraft and, as a precautionary measure, the aircraft is being checked by the security agencies.” Considering the times of terror the world is living in, the news of a bomb discovery on an Indian plane was splashed across the world on major newspaper websites. BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudi said: “Aviation is a prime target of terrorists as we have seen in the past. Government should find out about the breach in security.”



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