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December 25, 1999
'These are not ordinary terrorists whom we dealt with earlier'
Neena Chaudhary in Amritsar
"These are not ordinary terrorists whom we dealt with earlier. They are extremely smart and well trained militia who can pre-empty any move by security forces," says a senior Punjab police officer.
Though most Punjab police officers maintain a studied silence they are of the opinion that it was the delay in conveying a suitable decision by the Crisis Management Group which resulted in fumbling the 'only' chance to deal with the hijackers of the A-300 aircraft on Indian soil when it halted here for refuelling on Friday night.
Many officers said while the aircraft was stationed at Amritsar airport for about 50 minutes, the central authorities took slightly longer to convey their mind to local officers. Even National Security Guard commandos reached Amritsar half an hour after the plane had flown to Lahore.
The security forces have stayed on 'High Red Alert,' sounded from Delhi for all north Indian states. Top officers of the Punjab police's border range remained busy the entire day to review the security arrangements at the airport and chalk out a strategy in case of any eventuality.
The state police has deployed 60 of its commandos and personnel of the Punjab Armed Police, while the army and Border Security Force have been alerted for any development. Inspector General of Police J P S Birdi, who is experienced in handling such situations, was specially asked to take charge of the preparations.
A senior officer of the border range said there was no reason to lower guard as the possibility of the hijackers returning to Amritsar cannot be ruled out.
The Raja Sansi airport, which is awaiting upgradation to international status, handles seven regular and some special flights every week, including three from Sharjah and two international connecting flights. The airport has been provided with a security staff of 50 against the sanctioned strength of 72 and is equipped with relatively outdated gadgets.
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