The alleged hijacker of a Biman flight boarded the plane carrying a plastic toy gun in his backpack. But security staffers did not notice the object “clearly” during screening as there was no battery or metal screw with it.
Besides, the toy gun was wrapped in a piece of cloth which made the image hazy while the backpack was coming through the scanner at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
These are the findings of a government probe committee, according to a top official of the civil aviation and tourism ministry involved in the investigation.
A day after the attempted hijack on February 24, the ministry formed the five-member committee headed by Additional Secretary Md Mokabbir Hossain.
The probe report, not made public, was submitted to the civil aviation ministry on March 13.
Polash Ahmed, claiming to have been equipped with a gun and explosive materials, had tried to storm the cockpit of the flight bound for Dubai via Chattogram.
In midair, he threatened to blow off the aircraft having 155 passengers and crew on board, according to State Minister for Civil Aviation Mahbub Ali.
The plane made an emergency landing at the Chattogram airport and all the passengers and crew members were evacuated to safety.
A commando team entered the aircraft and neutralised the suspect. Gunned down, the suspect died later, said the state minister in parliament earlier this month.
It was known from several sources that Polash was carrying a toy gun but it remained a mystery how he boarded the Dubai-bound BG 147 flight with it.
The ministry and Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) have been claiming that there was no security lapse at the Dhaka airport.
“The security staffers couldn't notice the plastic gun during screening as there was no battery or metal screw with it. That's why the scanning machine didn't ring any alarm while the backpack with the toy gun inside was passing through it,” Mohibul Haque, secretary of civil aviation ministry, told The Daily Star at his office yesterday.
Citing the probe report, the secretary said the security staffers of the airport, however, could see a long object but the image was hazy as it was wrapped in a cloth.
“It was negligence on the part of the staffers involved in security checking as they should have opened the backpack,” he also said.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh has already suspended five employees for negligence in duty, said the secretary.
The five were involved in security checking of the passengers and their baggage on that day at the domestic terminal of the airport.
Asked how Polash carried the “explosives” like items as claimed by Polash evading the eye of security staffs, Mohibul Haque said the probe found there were no explosives with the man.
“Actually the youth was carrying in another bag some plastic pipes with wire attached to those. The security staffers also could notice the items during the screening but they didn't challenge him as they considered those as harmless items tied together by spiral binding,” Mohibul Haque said, referring to the probe report.
This was another mistake, he added.
The probe body made several recommendations including preparing a standard operating procedure (SOP) to be followed by the security staff of all airports to ensure “foolproof” security.
It also recommended identifying responsibilities of law enforcement agencies and other authorities concerned in case of any incident like the February 24 hijack bid.
“We have already taken an initiative to prepare a complete SOP. And some steps have already been taken in line with a draft SOP,” said Mohibul Haque.
For example, he said, the security officials and staffers involved in checking at airports will not be allowed to carry mobile phones while on duty. It would be strictly monitored.
According to the draft SOP, a security scanning staffer is not allowed to work for over 20 minutes at a stretch.
Besides, all the airport staff will remain under vigilance whether they are carrying out their job properly.
As per the recommendations, the Shahjalal airport has been cleared of all shops, except for two at the domestic terminal.