Indian airports on alert after hijack warning: officials

India has increased security at its airports and warned its domestic airlines about a possible hijack attempt by Islamic militant groups following Western intelligence reports, officials said Friday.

The alert to India's civil aviation ministry warned that flights of state-run Air India and other private carriers could be targeted by groups aligned to Al-Qaeda or the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba rebel group.

The warning came from Western intelligence agencies on the basis of intercepts, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

"We have intelligence inputs that there could be a hijack attempt of Indian planes," U.K Bansal, senior home ministry official in charge of internal security, said.

"So we have alerted the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and tightened security in all airports in the country."

The alert warns of flights from India or originating in countries neighbouring India - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal or Sri Lanka - being specific targets.

A civil aviation ministry spokeswoman Moushumi Chakravarty confirmed the alert had been received.

"The information has been passed on to airport authorities and airline offices," she told AFP.

In December 1999, Islamic militants hijacked an Air India flight from Kathmandu to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

It ended when New Delhi released four Islamic militants in exchange for 167 passengers and crew.

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