A 'live' explosive device was found in an unattended bag near a ticket counter of the departure gate of the airport in Mangaluru on Monday and later defused at a nearby open ground, police said.
"According to the preliminary reports, a live bomb was found at the Mangaluru Airport today," Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said as the incident created a scare ahead of the Republic Day.
A top Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) official said the device resembled a low-intensity improvised explosive device (IED).
It was taken away from the airport in a bomb disposal unit vehicle and defused at Kenjaru ground in a controlled-explosion by keeping the unclaimed laptop bag in sand-packs in the evening.
Earlier, as soon as the personnel of CISF, which is maintaining the security of the airport, noticed the unattended bag, they cordoned off the area and reported the matter to the police.
Mangaluru Police Commissioner P S Harsha rushed to the airport along with a police team and bomb detection and disposal squad.
"We have placed the bag in the isolation bay as per the safety protocol," Harsha said at the time.
He later told reporters that prima facie, during investigation, it has come to light that it was a handiwork of a middle-aged man who came to the airport in an autorickshaw.
Police also later released the photo of the suspect who tried to conceal his identity by using a cap.
Bommai said an alert has been sounded in all the airports in the state, including Bengaluru, Mangaluru, Hubballi and Belagavi.
"We will intensify the probe and will identify the anti-national forces who want to terrorise people and create panic. We are taking these activities very strongly, which is aimed to push back India economically," the home minister said.
According to Bommai, there is an attempt to carry out large-scale terror activities for the past seven to eight years in the country, particularly around January 26 and Mangaluru has been the target of these anti-national forces.
"We have identified that Mangaluru is the area of operations (of terrorists). Also there are such activities noticed in Bengaluru, Hubballi-Dharwad and their surrounding places, for which we have intensified our investigation," the minister added.
CISF DIG (operations) Anil Pandey told PTI in Delhi that, the object found in the bag resembled ‘a low-intensity improvised explosive device (IED) with some silver coloured explosive’.
"However, the IED was not charged or to say had trigger mechanism," Pandey added.
Meanwhile, Harsha said a case has been registered against the suspect under the provisions of Explosion Substance Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act based on a complaint by the CISF at the local police station.
According to the police officer, three committed teams have been formed for the identification, detection and apprehension of the accused persons involved in the case.
"So far the teams have been able to collect preliminary evidences, which is pointing to a person in his middle age, who was wearing a cap and dressed in a formal way," Harsha said.
He appealed to the people of Mangaluru and elsewhere to share any information they have as this is a matter of national security.
Another senior CISF official added that the explosive could be cracker powder.
Passenger services at the airport were unaffected.
Security has been beefed up at all airports in the country in run up to the Republic Day celebrations in the country on January 26.