x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Anonymous call grounds Emirates flight in Mumbai

An Emirates passenger plane was grounded at Mumbai today amid reports of militants aboard.

An Emirates passenger plane was grounded at Mumbai International Airport today for several hours after authorities received a telephone call claiming there were militants on board. Flight EK 505 was preparing to take off for Dubai shortly before 8.30am (UAE time) when airport officials received the anonymous call alleging that two passengers were members of the Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The aircraft, which was carrying 356 passengers and crew, was taken to an isolation area where all passengers disembarked and the plane was examined. A Indian man and his wife were detained for questioning by security personnel before the remaining passengers were allowed back onto the aircraft and it departed shortly after 12pm (UAE time). "Emirates can confirm that its flight EK 505 was called back by Mumbai's Air Traffic Control before departure," said a Emirates spokeswoman. "A male passenger and his wife have been handed over to the local Mumbai police authorities for questioning. "We were informed that a passenger onboard EK 505 may pose a security threat." A spokesman at Mumbai International Airport told Agence France Presse: "The flight was on the taxi-way when the call came through which said that there were LeT suspects on board." The Emirates spokeswoman added: "The flight was delayed for around four hours as full security procedures were activated including the deplaning of all passengers and a thorough screening of the aircraft, passengers, and baggage. "The airline is extending full co-operation during this period. After receiving clearance from the air traffic control, the aircraft has departed Mumbai with all remaining passengers." The telephone call originated from Dubai, according to some media reports. Last month, India increased airport security and warned its domestic airlines about a possible hijack attempt after a tip-off from Western intelligence services. The alert warned that flights could be targeted by Islamist groups aligned to Al-Qaeda or Lashkar-e-Taiba. New Delhi blames Lashkar-e-Taiba for plotting and carrying out the November 2008 Mumbai siege in which 10 gunmen targeted multiple locations in India's financial and entertainment capital, killing 166 people. Last August an Indian businessman running behind schedule triggered a bomb scare at Delhi airport in a desperate attempt to catch his flight.

chamilton@thenational.ae