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Fri 22 Jan 2010 03:37 PM

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Indian govt warns of hijack threat to Air India

Ministry suggests measures such as greater frisking, deploying more sky marshals.

Indian govt warns of hijack threat to Air India
SECURITY CHECK: The warning comes just days before the annual Republic Day on Tuesday, when there are often security scares.(Getty Images)

The Home Ministry has recommended extra security measures for Indian airlines after intelligence on a threat from militants to hijack a plane of the national carrier Air India, officials said on Friday.

The warning comes just days before the annual Republic Day on Tuesday, when there are often security scares.

India has beefed up security measures and remains wary of militant threats after the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people and raised tensions with nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan.

"We have alerted our civil aviation security people against a possible attempt to hijack an Indian airlines flight," U.K. Bansal, the special secretary for internal security in the Home Ministry, told Reuters.

"This would obviously be from terrorist groups who are arraigned against Indian interests," he added, but did not specify which group.

An Air India spokesman would not comment on the threat, but told Reuters the airline would issue a statement later on Friday.

The ministry had not recommended the suspension of flights, but suggested measures such as greater frisking and deploying more sky marshals, Bansal said.

The biggest hijack threat was to flights by the carrier to and from the SAARC bloc of neighbouring nations, he said.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is made up of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The government was criticised for its handling of the Mumbai rampage. India is now spending millions on new security measures, from commando bases in cities to navy patrols and better intelligence gathering. (Reuters)

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