Vol. 5 Num 694 Sat. May 13, 2006  

Indian airports to mount vigil against 'human bomb'

A "human bomb" could attempt to hijack a plane in India, intelligence agencies have warned, prompting security forces to seek state-of-the-art body scanners, an official said yesterday.

"There is a real possibility of a terrorist inserting RDX or plastic explosives or even a knife into his skin," a top official of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which protects 54 of India's main airports, told Reuters.

Intelligence agencies had also warned that airports and dockyards were "targets number one" for militants, especially militants fighting Indian rule in the restive Himalayan state of Kashmir, he said.

CISF has asked the government to allow installation of human body scanners at 16 airports in the country categorised as "hypersensitive", the official said.

"Traditional scanners cannot look under the skin so we have decided to go for body scanners," he said.

These scanners use advanced X-Ray technology to draw a skeletal image of a human body and are considered to be a "fool-proof" measure against hijacking.

"Terrorists are coming out of Kashmir and targeting all over India," the official said, referring to recent suspected militant strikes in the Hindu pilgrimage city of Varanasi and in the southern IT hub of Bangalore.

Earlier this week, police said three suspected militants arrested in western India with a huge cache of weapons and explosives were planning to attack the Kandla Port, India's largest.

The use of body scanners has come in for some criticism in the West as passengers have complained that it amounts to a strip-search and violates their privacy.

The CISF official said his agency planned to address such concerns by using officers of the same gender to scan passengers.

"In any case, it's better than manual frisking. No one will touch your body. All you need to do is pass through this scan and board the aircraft," he said.

"It could make it almost impossible for someone to hijack a plane."