Kalam frisked at NY airport, US apologises

New Delhi: The US has apologised to former President A P J Abdul Kalam who was twice subjected to frisking at New York airport by American security officials who even took his jacket and shoes to check for explosives, an incident that left India fuming.

"We deeply regret the inconvenience that resulted for him (Kalam) as a result of the September 29 incident involving the security screening at JFK Airport in New York," a statement from the US Embassy here said, noting that it had the utmost respect for Kalam. 80-year-old Kalam was frisked in New York on September 29 before boarding an Air India flight.

Sources said that even after Kalam had taken his seat in the aircraft, the US security personnel forced the crew to open the door and took away the jacket and boots of the former president to check for explosives since they had forgotten to do so before his boarding. The items were later returned to Kalam.

Outraged at the frisking incident, India today threatened retaliatory action against US dignitaries unless such "unacceptable" practices were stopped. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna spoke to Indian Ambassador to US Nirupama Rao and directed her to take up the matter in writing at the "highest level" with Washington.

In its damage control exercise, the US came out with a written apology to Kalam and the Indian government, saying "appropriate procedure for expedited screening of dignitaries had not been followed". They also said that US was actively working to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.