The footage of a man getting off an autorickshaw and walking with a bag that contained materials for an improvised explosive device in an utterly nondescript manner, had raised several questions about the laxity of security at the Mangaluru airport. While three teams were formed to nab 36-year-old Aditya Rao who was identified as the man in the video, he walked into the office of Karnataka's top police officer, Director General and Inspector General of Police Neelamani Raju, at 8.20 am on Wednesday.
CCTV grab of Aditya entering the airport
Aditya told the constables present there that he was the man who had placed the bag filled with explosive materials at the Mangaluru International Airport on Monday. He was immediately taken into custody and he made the same confession to DG and IGP Neelamani Raju.
“One of the first things he said was that he watches a lot of crime thrillers and TV shows, especially Hollywood action films. He also said that he spends at least three to four hours every day watching videos on the internet about criminology, forensics and other topics,” a senior police officer said.
So, how did Aditya Rao, a 36-year-old mechanical engineer and MBA-holder, come to place a bag full of combustible materials at an airport?
Materials from the dark web
Police sources say that the elements Aditya had placed in the bag were highly combustible but the device itself cannot be considered a bomb as it did not have a trigger, trip wires or a detonator. A senior official that TNM spoke to, who has knowledge about the probe, says that this came to light only after the device was detonated in a controlled explosion.
Aditya allegedly purchased six gelignite sticks from the dark web. Gelignite is made from a gel of nitroglycerine and nitrocellulose and sodium or potassium nitrate, used particularly for rock-blasting. “The quantity was very minimal and these were smaller compared to the ones used for rock blasting,” the source said.
Police say that Aditya bought other materials online, including firecrackers, from which he extracted the gunpowder, wires of three different colours – green, blue and yellow, a cheap mobile phone, the motherboard of which he extracted, and a set of batteries.
“These were all loosely placed in polythene containers inside the bag. Some wires were attached to these containers. It was very crude in nature. The bomb detection and disposal squad is trained to neutralise IEDs and complicated explosive devices. They did not know what would happen if these containers were moved around and hence were forced to detonate it in a controlled environment,” the source said.
The bag being moved for controlled detonation
Aditya Rao was imprisoned between August 2018 and September 2019. He was lodged at the Chikkaballapura prison for making a hoax bomb threat to the Kempegowda International Airport. He'd reportedly wanted to find out how efficient the security was at the airport, and had also wanted to get back at KIAL for not giving him a job there. Aditya Rao was released from jail on September 23, 2019. He returned to his home in Manipal, police sources say.
With a checkered past and a jail stint, finding a job became difficult for Aditya, and the police say that he wanted a job as a security manager at the Mangaluru airport.
Aditya Rao's home in Manipal, Udupi
“He told us that by placing a bag full of materials required for an IED, it was his way of showcasing his level of expertise in matters related to security. He said that he wanted to point out the flaws in the security system. Aditya had studied the security plan for the airport and even knew that most of the security personnel were concentrated at the VIP parking area rather than near the ticket counter. He said he needed a well-paying job to feed his eating habits and his need for online shopping,” a senior police official said.
After obtaining a Master's degree in Business Management from Mysuru, Aditya first worked at a major bank in Bengaluru’s Brigade Road for a salary of Rs 14,000. A year later, he quit and worked at a multinational banking corporation in Bengaluru. Aditya quit that job as well, police say, as he felt the money was not adequate.
He later joined a multinational corporation as a sales manager in Jayanagar. But, he was fired from the job for allegedly stealing his manager Shalaj Chaturvedi’s laptop. With a criminal case against him, it became difficult for Aditya to find work, police say.
“He applied for a security job at Bengaluru airport and was rejected. He made multiple hoax bomb calls back then, too, just to prove that there were security lapses and he wanted to know the security team’s response to a bomb threat. He was sent to jail and soon after he came out, he resorted to doing the same thing,” an investigating officer in Bengaluru, who had probed the hoax bomb threat case told TNM.