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Emirates flight grounded after 'terror' call

Last updated on: February 07, 2010 20:49 IST

A Dubai-bound Emirates flight with 356 passengers and crew on board was grounded in Mumbai on Saturday for about four hours here after an anonymous telephone call shortly before its take off that there was a 'terrorist' onboard. Preliminary investigations revealed that the call was a hoax, a police official said, amid high drama at the airport.

The plane departed following security clearance from investigating agencies after remaining grounded for about four hours. A businessman and his wife travelling on the plane were detained for questioning by police. "Emirates Airlines flight EK 505 Mumbai-Dubai was grounded on Sunday morning after we received a call claiming that one of the passengers Shahbaz Khan was a terrorist," a Mumbai International Airport(MIAL) spokesperson said.

The city police is on the look-out for Amjad, the son of Shahbaz Khan. "Shahbaz and his wife were continuously stating that their son Amjad must have made the call as they are embroiled in a property dispute," a senior police official said. The anonymous call to the cargo supervisor of the Emirates flight by a man identifying himself as Suresh Chavan has been traced to suburban Andheri. According to the police, the caller said he overheard from someone that Shahbaz was an "Al Qaeda" terrorist. "We are searching for Amjad to ascertain his location in the morning when the call was received," the officer said.

All the 356 passengers including crew on board were deplaned and rigorous searches were conducted. "Shahbaz and his wife were handed over to the local police for questioning after which the aircraft was cleared for take-off. The flight took off at 1404

hours," the spokesperson said.

"Shahbaz's wife Waheeda, a heart patient, was sent home. We are questioning Shahbaz now," a police official said. Shahbaaz and his wife were on their way to Dubai to attend a wedding. After the alert, the aircraft had pushed back from the
runway at 0959 hours when the Air Traffic Control (ATC) informed MIAL about a security hazard on board, the MIAL spokesperson said.
       
The plane was taxied to Tango Bay at 1047 hours. All the passengers were deplaned and a thorough checking of the
passengers and luggage was carried out by the security agencies. Full security procedures were activated including the
deplaning of all passengers and a thorough screening of the aircraft, passengers and baggage, Emirates said.
      
"The airline is extending full co-operation during this period. After receiving clearance from the ATC, the aircraft has departed Mumbai with all remaining passengers," it said. "According to the wife, the call was made by someone who was trying to settle their personal enmity with Shahbaz," police official said earlier.
     
Shahbaz is embroiled in a property dispute and the wife alleged that the call was made by the party involved in
the dispute, the official said. The flight was delayed for over three hours and took off only after receiving clearance from the Air Traffic Control (ATC), a statement released by Emirates Airlines said.

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