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Was Rahul Gandhi detained by FBI?

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 29. With the U.S. security agencies leaving nothing to chance after the September 11 terrorist strikes, sleuths of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ``detained'' Mr. Rahul Gandhi, son of the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and the Leader of the Opposition, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, for about an hour at the Boston airport early this week, sources here said.

According to sources, Mr. Gandhi, reportedly travelling from Boston to Washington, was detained by the FBI agents who would not let him go even after checking his travel documents thoroughly. They checked his baggage, despite being told that he was the son of a former Indian Prime Minister.

Sources here maintain that only when the news reached 10, Janpath, and the Congress president, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, reportedly spoke to the Indian Ambassador in the U.S., Mr. Lalit Mansingh, Mr. Gandhi was able to proceed with his onward journey.

Though official circles were silent over the incident, Congress sources said they were concerned. Mr. Gandhi's movement should have been known to the U.S. security agencies because he is a Special Protection Group protectee. And, under the security drill, any movement of a SPG protectee abroad is communicated in advance to their counterparts in that country.

`Envoy did not intercede'

Meanwhile, Sridhar Krishnaswami reports from Washington, quoting well-placed diplomatic sources, that media reports of Mr. Mansingh having been brought into the picture to allow Mr. Gandhi to proceed on his onward journey from Boston to Washington ``are simply not true.''

The sources also said since Mr. Gandhi did not get any security protection here, the U.S. agencies were not under any obligation to inform the Indian Embassy of any contact they may have had with him.

In fact, some Embassy officials here have no knowledge of Mr. Gandhi's trip from Boston to Washington. ``But reports of Ms. Sonia Gandhi calling the Indian Ambassador and asking him to intercede with authorities on the `detention' of Mr. Rahul Gandhi are simply not true,'' a senior Indian diplomat told The Hindu.

Diplomats are pointing to the heightened security precautions in the U.S. in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Besides different layers of security check at airports, many are subjected to some intense questioning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other investigative agencies. But for official purposes, in the case of the movement of VVIPs - and in some cases VIPs - the Embassy notifies Diplomatic Security for necessary courtesies.

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