Mock anti-hijack drill at Bangalore airport

Bangalore, Sep 17 (IANS) In a mock exercise conducted Tuesday at the Bangalore international airport, the hijack of a Dubai-bound aircraft was foiled without bloodshed though a passenger was "killed" and two others "injured".

"The anti-hijack mock drill was enacted to verify alertness and preparedness to handle unlawful interference to civil aviation operations at the Bangalore airport," Additional Chief Secretary S.K. Pattanayak told reporters after the exercise that took hundreds of passengers and visitors by surprise for a while.

The hijack drama was thwarted by the skilful handling of the situation, which involved various allied agencies, including Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), National Security Guard (NSG), National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL), Airports Authority of India and the state intelligence.

"The Dubai-bound aircraft, which took off from the airport at noon, was 'hijacked' 10 minutes after take-off. The ATC (air traffic control) alerted the security agencies immediately after receiving the message from the pilot. The aerodrome committee also held an emergent meeting in the emergency operations control room to co-ordinate the rescue operations," Pattanayak said.

While the hijack drama was on, the aircraft engine suddenly "caught fire", forcing the pilot to return to the airport for an emergency landing. The aircraft was shifted to the isolation bay where one "injured" passenger was thrown out.

The ATC established contact with the three "hijackers" to know their demands and allow the ambulance near the aircraft to shift the injured to hospital.

"The 'hijackers' obliged the request but wanted an alternate aircraft loaded with fuel. They were told that since arranging an alternate aircraft needs time, they should first allow the passengers to disembark.

"The 'hijackers' turned down the request but allowed the ambulance to shift the 'injured' to the hospital. To buy more time, the 'hijackers' were informed that the required fuel had to come from the nearest airport, as fuel tankers were on strike in Bangalore," Pattanayak said.

Meanwhile, the security authorities were able to extract some information about the situation inside the aircraft from the "injured" passenger being shifted to the hospital.

"He told us that there were 30 passengers and six crew members on board the aircraft. The 'hijackers', who appeared to be from an international Islamic organisation, brandished hand grenades. Another passenger, who tried to attack the 'hijackers', was "stabbed to death". His 'body' was pushed out of the aircraft as a warning to the authorities," the official said.

The "hijackers" also threatened to blow off the aircraft if their demand was not met immediately.

At that point of time, there was commotion inside the aircraft and one more "injured" passenger was pushed out. He was also shifted to the hospital immediately.

The "hijackers" wanted drinking water to be supplied to the aircraft which was obliged.

At this juncture, a third party negotiator volunteered to talk to the "hijackers" and asked them to release his mother, a cancer patient, who was on board. He was allowed to negotiate with them.

After some time, the "hijackers" agreed to release her as well as other passengers, including the members of the crew.

"The hijack drama ended with the surrender of the 'hijackers' two hours later. Except for demanding they be provided an alternate aircraft, there was no other demand from the 'hijackers'," Pattanayak added.

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