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Photo for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: iStock

Flight operations at Bir Tikendrajit International (BTI) Airport in Manipur’s Imphal were suspended for over three hours on Sunday after an unidentified flying object (UFO) was hovering over the airport, officials said.

A senior Airport Authority of India (AAI) official said that the flight operations at the BTI Airport in Imphal were suspended for three hours and twenty minutes from 2.30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon and the flight operations were resumed in the evening as usual after a “thorough checkup about the UFO”.

The official said that after the sighting of UFO within Imphal controlled airspace, two flights from Delhi and Guwahati have been diverted and three departing Agartala, Guwahati and Kolkata bound flights have been delayed and the flight operations restarted after getting clearance from the competent authority.

The 'UFO' was reportedly sighted by the Central Industrial Security Force personnel and a pilot of a private airliner before his flight was about to depart around 2.20 p.m. There is no immediate clarification on the identity and motive of the object, but sources said the Director General of Civil Aviation and Indian Air Force are jointly looking into it.

The Indian Air Force (IAF), soon after receiving information about the sighting of unidentified flying objects near the Imphal airport on Sunday, scrambled its Rafale fighter aircraft to search for them.

"Soon after information about the UFO near the Imphal airport was received, a Rafale fighter aircraft from a nearby airbase was scrambled to go and search for the UFO," defence sources told ANI.

"The aircraft equipped with advanced sensors carried out low-level flying over the suspected area to look for the UFO but it did not find anything there," they said, adding that after the first aircraft returned, one more Rafale fighter was sent for the search but the UFO was not seen around the area. "The agencies concerned are trying to find out the details of the UFO as there are videos of the UFO over the Imphal airport," they said.

Manipur, which has been witnessing ethnic riot since May 3, has an inter-state border with Nagaland, Mizoram and Assam, besides sharing around 400 km of unfenced international border with Myanmar. The Manipur government on Saturday, considering the state's volatile situation, extended the ban on mobile Internet service for another five days till November 23.

Mobile Internet was first banned in Manipur over 200 days ago after the ethnic violence between non-tribals Meitei and tribal Kuki-Zo communities broke out in the northeastern state on May 3.