Passengers detained after airline security alert


New Delhi, India – A male passenger and his wife were detained for questioning Sunday after a Dubai-bound flight from Mumbai, India was called back before take-off because of a security scare, the airline said.

Authorities activated full security procedures, including the deplaning of all passengers and screening of the baggage, before clearing the plane for departure four hours later, Dubai’s state-owned Emirates airline said in a statement.

The couple “have been handed over to the local Mumbai police authorities for questioning,” the airline said.

The scare was prompted by an anonymous phone call claiming that the man was a “threat to (the) UK government,” J.S. Negi, senior commandant of the Central Industrial Security Force deployed at the Mumbai airport, told CNN.

Nothing incriminating had been found against the detained passengers as of Sunday, but the probe continues, Negi said.

The flight had more than 350 people on board, airport officials said.

About two weeks ago, India announced the stepping up of anti-hijacking measures and ordered the deployment of air marshals on select flights.

Civil aviation officials said the precautions were based on intelligence indicating that terror groups were planning an attack involving a flight from a South Asian country around India’s January 26 Republic Day.

In December 1999, hijackers commandeered an Indian airliner with more than 150 passengers, forcing the pilots to fly to Kandahar, Afghanistan. It had been flying from Kathmandu, Nepal, to New Delhi.

The eight-day drama ended when India freed three jailed Kashmiri militants.