Fliers face double security checks amid terror alert

Airports across the country and particularly Delhi are on high alert, and anti-hijack measures are in place after intelligence agencies warned of a possible hijack attempt on an Air India flight to the Afghanistan capital of Kabul.

"Security around all the airports has been strengthened and we have taken all the measures that are required in the wake of the alert from intelligence agencies," officials said.

To the discomfiture of passengers, extra security checking of passengers and baggage has been put in place at major airports, including the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. Even airport staff that has access to planes, including cleaning crew, is being thoroughly checked.

Reports said the threat perception is based on messages that surfaced earlier, indicating that both Islamic State militants and the Taliban could choose to target India with a possible hijack attempt similar to the Kandahar hijack of 1999, when terrorists took over an Indian Airlines flight IC 814 and forced it fly to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Security agencies indicated that an Air India flight to Kabul could be targeted as it is the national carrier and senior officials travel on it to Afghanistan.

This comes ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to India later this month. The US President will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade to be held in Delhi on 26 January.

Security had already been tightened at airports and other vital installations across the country in view of his visit.

India is currently training the Afghan National Army and is participating in the reconstruction efforts of the country.

Indians in Afghanistan have been frequent targets of militant attack - the last big attack took place at the Indian Consulate in Herat in May 2014 by four heavily-armed militants. The gun-battle lasted several hours; but none of the consulate staff was injured.