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Ticket lets in gunman at airport

A man was held inside the international terminal of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport with suspect antecedents and a loaded pistol early on Saturday. Investigations are underway to check his links with extremist outfits in the state, police officials said.

Somnath Dangel, a 25-year-old from Jharkhand, had purchased a Rs 50 visitor ticket around 8.30 am. He was trying to sneak inside the international terminal when an alert Central Industrial Security Force jawan found his movements suspicious and brought him to the notice of senior officers.

“He was strangely trying to avoid the hi-tech gate with the metal detector, which raised our suspicion even further,” said a senior official on duty at the airport. Realising that all eyes were fixed on him, the man tried to rush through the metal detector, setting off the alarm.

“The sound was enough for our men to rush after the man and pin him down. He did not try to resist,” said Sanjay Prakash, commanding officer of the CISF unit at the airport.

After some frisking, police found a country-made pistol in his pocket and a solitary bullet, apart from the Rs 50 ticket. “It was a crude weapon, but enough to kill or strike fear in people,” Prakash continued.

The man was dragged to the interrogation room and the perimeter area was scanned for any of his associates. “He seemed to be alone,” Prakash added.

A barrage of questions followed in the special interrogation room where Dangel insisted that he was just a visitor and had come to the airport on a sight-seeing mission. His accent and his poor knowledge of Calcutta streets gave away the fact that he was not a local resident.

He soon confessed that he was from West Singbhum in Jharkhand and had come to Calcutta to appear for a Railway Recruitment Board examination a few days later.

“I had time in hand and therefore decided to see the flights take off from the airport,” Dangel reportedly said during interrogation.

He, however, refused to explain how he got hold of the weapon and what his other plans in Calcutta. The man was arrested and handed over to the local police for a detailed investigation.

“A probe is underway and we are now tracing whether he had links with any terrorist outfit. It is true that he is from Jharkhand, but we are cross-checking other details with the Jharkhand Police,” said P. Nandy, officer-in-charge of the airport police station. Additional superintendent of police, Salt Lake, Jayraman, who is conducting the probe, said the police would check out all possibilities.

The incident has once again brought to light how the visitor ticket sales, contributing significantly to the Airports Authority of India’s revenue earnings, can be used by people with suspicious background to gain access to the airport premises.

During past meetings, Airlines Operators Association and the CISF senior officials had asked the AAI to restrict visitors’ entry to the international terminal. “Apart from suspect individuals, several touts also can sneak in with valid visitor tickets,” a senior CISF official said.

However, AAI officials argue that the touts are known faces and can easily be identified by the security personnel and thrown out.

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