Saturday, January 23, 2016

This man sent four airports across India into panic mode

Sanjay Mishra arrested by Pune ATS

The security agencies in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bhubaneshwar, and Bagdogra, near Darjeeling, spent a harrowing 24 hours as a result of a series of hoax calls made by one man - an animation artist from Pune - who claimed that bombs would go off on Mumbai-bound flights, and cars stuffed with explosives would blow up at the airports and the Pune Railway Station. 

A Mumbai-bound GoAir flight from Bhubaneshwar was diverted to Nagpur, and an IndiGo flight on the same route was delayed, while the CISF and the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) officers spent nearly three hours combing the four airports and the railway station. The accused, Sanjeev Kumar Mishra, 35, made five calls between 6 pm Friday and 9 pm Saturday, when he was finally arrested from the Pune-Solapur Highway. 

The CISF said that Mishra, who appeared "disturbed", made the first call to the Mumbai Police Control Room at 6 pm on Friday while he was in the city. "He said that a white-coloured vehicle, laden with explosives, had entered the Mumbai International Airport premises," a CISF officer said. 

The already on-the-edge cops, in the middle of the crackdown against Daesh operatives in India and preparing for the Republic Day celebrations, pressed nearly 200 men into combing operations, even as the CISF, responsible for the airport security across the country, sounded a high alert. 

"The call was declared a hoax around 9 pm, and Mishra was traced to his friend's house in Mumbai. He was questioned at the Airport Police Station, where his friend produced documents that said he was on medication for mental problems, after which he was allowed to go," a CISF source said. 

The police found that Mishra, who owns an animation studio in Pune's Wadgaon Dhayari area, left for home straight from the Airport Police Station, and made a second call, at 3.20 am on Saturday, to the Mumbai International Airport Limited helpdesk, saying a cab stuffed with explosives, already parked on the airport premises, would blow up anytime. The call sparked off another round of combing operations, and every vehicle in the vicinity was screened. 

The next call was made around 8.30 am on Saturday, this time to the Bhubaneswar airport, claiming that bombs would go off on two Mumbai-bound flights. Mishra said that a passenger named Mohapatra, on one of the flights, was carrying the bomb in his hand baggage. 

There were two Mumbai-bound flights from Bhubaneshwar at that point in time, and one of them, a GoAir flight G8-243, had already taken off, resulting in a mid-air panic. The flight had 150 people on board, and was diverted to the nearest airport (Nagpur). 

"The flight had taken off at 8.20 am and made an emergency landing at Nagpur for an anti-sabotage check. An Indigo flight from Bhubaneswar to Mumbai was delayed as it was also subjected to an anti-sabotage check," a source at the Mumbai airport said. The checks lasted nearly three hours, and the passengers were asked to deplane, a GoAir spokesperson said. 

Within the next 30 minutes, Mishra called up the Bagdogra airport and the Pune Railway Station, saying both would be blown up. The Pune ATS intercepted Mishra's SUV near Daund on the Pune-Solapur Highway, and said that his "intention was to create panic". 

ACP Bhanupratap Barge, in charge of the Pune unit of the ATS, said, "He said that he was undergoing treatment for a mental ailment. He claimed that he was very angry with the police because he was harassed while returning from Bhubaneswar last Wednesday." 

Investigations revealed that Mishra was travelling from Bhubaneshwar to Mumbai on a GoAir flight last Wednesday, when he had an altercation with a co-passenger. "The co-passenger filed a police complaint saying Mishra had deliberately spilled hot tea on her child. A noncognizable offense was registered," an officer from the Airport Police Station in Mumbai said. 

ACP Barge added that Mishra's family members also appeared to be fed up with his behaviour. "After we detained him, we called up his father in Bhubaneswar, who said, 'Shoot him. We don't care'." 

Over the last fortnight, the Mumbai Airport has been fortified by the CISF and teams from the Mumbai Police's elite units, and the ATS. There is an additional deployment of over 100 jawans, and 60% of them are armed and incognito. 

At the time of going to press, the ATS was still questioning Mishra, and the process to charge him was on. Meanwhile, the Mumbai Airport received another call ,saying the airport will be blown up before February 2. Preliminary investigation revealed the call was traced to Uttar Pradesh. "The matter is being investigated by the ATS," a Mumbai airport spokesperson said.


Jan 22, 6 pm: Mishra calls the police control room claiming that a white car with a bomb was heading towards the airport. His number is traced and Mishra is brought to the police station. A friend bails him out citing mental health issue. 

Jan 22, 3.20 am: Hours later Mishra calls MIAL helpdesk to say says a Meru cab has a bomb on it. 

Jan 23, 8.30 am: Mishra calls Bhubaneswar airport and warns of Mumbai-bound flights being bombed. This leads to a Go Air flight being diverted to Nagpur, an Indigo flight is delayed to run additional checks. 

Jan 23, 8.45 am: Calls Bagdogra airport next, threatening to blow it up. 

Jan 23, 9 am: Mishra calls Pune railway station and threatens to blow it up. Pune ATS start tracking and realise that he's on the run. Eventually, he's nabbed from Pune-Solapur highway.

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