Arms for Egypt exhibition spark hostage fear at Indira Gandhi international airport
The weapons were stashed amongst purses, mementoes, diaries, visiting cards, pens, etc., and were marked as “auto parts”, fuelling suspicions that the weapons might have been smuggled in by terrorists and a hostagesituation or an attack could be in the making.A high alert was sounded, entry and exits were restricted, and a full-fledged investigation was initiated. All intelligence agencies were alerted as well and a joint inquiry was conducted. After a few hours of inquiry, it was revealed that these boxes were meant to be transported to Cairo,Egypt for an arms exhibition. The cops breathed a sigh of relief.
It was conveyed that the shipping arrangements weremade by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and the weapons were collected from an ordnance factory in Kanpur, UP.
BEL, sources said, served as the nodal agency from India for the exhibition. “It collected the weapons from the Kanpur ordnance factory and sent them to a warehouse in Bangalore in the name of SMM Storage Solutions LLP located on New Airport Road, Bangalore,” said a senior airport official.
The shipment, cops found, was handed over to TCI Express Ltd (by BEL), which in turn handed them over to Bhagwati Air Express that finally handed over the shipment to “AIR India Cargo” under misdeclaration as “auto parts” instead of “weapons/arms/amunitions”.
“It was detected during routine X Ray scans done before loading of the cargo shipments,” the official added.
This, cops confirmed, was a huge lapse and legal action was being taken in this regard.
“The shipment is booked on the basis of weight and the shipment charges are raised on the basis of weight of the shipment. There is no monetary gain involved at the sender or receiver’s part,” another official added.
The incident took place at a time when security at airports in Delhi and Punjab has been substantially stepped up with measures like a secondary ladder point checks (SLPC) kicking in for Air India flights in the wake of threats given by terrorist group Sikhs For Justice to do a repeat of the the 1985 bombing of Air India’s Boeing 747 Kanishka.
The National Investigation Agency has booked SFJ’s chief Gurpatwant Singh Pannun for the threats. When SLPC is in force, passengers and their hand bags are checked again just before boarding aircraft.