Zafarullah Khan Jamali
From AP, :
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani intelligence has uncovered a plot by a small band of terrorists to hijack and possibly blow up a plane bound for the United Arab Emirates, the prime minister said Wednesday, prompting the nation to put its airports on “red alert.”
Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali told The Associated Press that authorities believe there was a group of about four to six people who wanted to hijack a plane. Intelligence indicated they wanted to blow it up, he said.
There was no indication when the plot was due to be carried out or if it involved al-Qaida. Jamali would not speculate on whether the hijackers were Pakistanis or foreigners.
“Hijackers have no nationality,” he said.
A senior official at Pakistan’s intelligence agency said authorities are not sure who the men are.
“If we had their names and nationalities or other information about their whereabouts, they would have been arrested already,” he said on condition of anonymity. …
“We got the information from our intelligence network, not from a threatening phone call or letter,” Riaz said. “We don’t know what group it is. We can’t say whether it is al-Qaida.”
No flights have been canceled because of the alert, Jamali said.
“Naturally when one gets some hint about (a plot) or one gets a feeler or is informed directly or indirectly, I think this high alert is a must,” Jamali said.
The United Arab Emirates is the main financial hub of the Arab world. Dubai is also a regional transit hub and there are about 20 flights a day from the Pakistani cities of Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. Pakistan International Airlines, Emirates airlines, Gulf Air, Malaysian Air and Aeroasia fly to the Emirates from Pakistan.
In March, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai briefly shut their doors after receiving a “specific threat,” though there was no indication it was connected to the recent Pakistani alert.
Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Rauf Chaudhry told AP that a Pakistani intelligence agency issued the recent warning. He also would not say whether the men were believed to be al-Qaida.
Chaudhry said no arrests have been made and airports nationwide continue to be “on red alert.”
Pakistan has been beset by a string of terror attacks since President Gen. Pervez Musharraf threw his support behind the United States’ war on terror following the September 11 attacks.
Musharraf himself survived two suicide attacks in December, and dozens have been killed in attacks on foreigners and minority Christians. The president blamed the assassination attempts on al-Qaida.
Several homegrown Islamic militant groups — including Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and the al-Qaida-linked Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — also have launched frequent attacks.