A Gujarati jeweller was detained on Monday for allegedly planting a note about hijackers and a bomb in the toilet of a Mumbai-Delhi Jet Airways flight, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Ahmedabad, officials said.
Flight 9W 339, which had taken off from Mumbai at 2.55 am with 115 passengers and seven crew members, was diverted to Ahmedabad airport around 3.45 am. However, the flight was cleared to take off for Delhi after six hours following stringent security checks, a Jet spokesperson said.
The note, allegedly placed by Mumbai-based Gujarati jeweller Birju Kishore Salla, stated there were 12 hijackers and a bomb in the cargo area. The note, which was printed in Urdu and English, asked that the plane be flown straight to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK). It ended with the words, “Allah is Great”. The reference to PoK made investigators suspicious as Pakistan-based terrorists call the area ‘Azad Kashmir’, an official said.
Salla, who is in his late 30s and belongs to Gujarat’s Amreli district, was a repeat offender who usually travelled business class and appeared to have a grouse against the airline. He had carried a cockroach on an earlier trip and blamed the airline. However, the airline had let him go after taking an assurance that he would not repeat the offence.
“Salla was detained by police after preliminary investigation… It was revealed that Salla had put the letter in the plane’s washroom. We will take necessary action against him,” said an Ahmedabad police officer.
Earlier in the day, Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said he had asked airlines to put him on the no-fly list immediately, in addition to other statutory criminal action. “I am informed that the person responsible for Jet flight 339 (Mumbai-Delhi) incident causing the landing at Ahmedabad today morning has been identified,” Raju had tweeted.
Detailing the Monday morning incident, an official of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) said the message was passed on to the pilot, who then pressed the hijack alert button, following which the plane made an emergency landing.
The flight was “diverted to Ahmedabad following the declaration of an emergency as per established security procedures, due to the detection of an onboard security threat”, the Jet Airways spokesperson said.
Ahmedabad Airport Director Manoj Gangal said the flight was allowed to make an emergency landing on the pilot’s request. “The flight later left for its destination after a thorough investigation by the police,” Gangal said. A PTI correspondent who was on board said all the passengers were deplaned and screened. They were profiled, photographs taken and personal details were sought, including their last overseas visit.