A pigeon has been arrested by police in India on suspicion of being a spy from Pakistan.
The bird was seized on Thursday after being spotted carrying a “stamped message” on its body.
The message was written partly in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan. It also contained a Pakistani phone number, according to reports.
The bird was discovered by a 14-year-old boy in the village of Manwal, around two miles from the border.
He took it to the nearest police station where the bird was X-rayed.
Although police confirmed nothing unusual was found they “have kept the bird in our custody”, according to one senior local officer. The bird has been logged as a “suspected spy” in the area’s official police diary.
“This is a rare instance of a bird from Pakistan being spotted here. We have caught a few spies here. The area is sensitive, given its proximity to Jammu, where infiltration is quite common,” local police superintendent Rakesh Kaushal told the Times of India.
The area where the bird was found sits close to Jammu and Kashmir, an area which is claimed by both India and Pakistan, and is the scene of regular military exchanges.
But pigeons as spies? It wouldn’t be the first time.
In fact until relatively recently carrier pigeons were the safest way of transmitting secretive information. You can’t hack into a bird, and they blend into the background well. In fact, animals have a rich history as spies.
The Bletchingley pigeon
In 2012, David Martin was ripping out his fireplace at his home in Bletchingley, Surrey. Inside, he found a carrier pigeon with a coded message in a capsule on its leg.
Historians think the bird was almost certainly dispatched from Nazi-occupied France in June 1944, during the D-Day landings.
The contents of the message were a complete mystery, though. It was passed to Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in the hope a professional codebreaker could decipher the words.
In the end the message was so well disguised the government had to call on second world war cryptographers to come out of retirement to help.
The message was eventually cracked months later by a Canadian team, who discovered it was sent by a British paratrooper, Sergeant William Stott, who had been parachuted in behind enemy lines. The message said that he had landed and was checking in with RAF Bomber Command./bbc.co.uk
A Pakistani villager has urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to return his pigeon, currently being held in India on charges of spying.
The man, who lives just 4km (2.5 miles) from the border, said he flew his pigeons to celebrate Eid festival.
Police said the pigeon had a ring on one of its legs, inscribed with a code that they were trying to decipher.
The Pakistani villager, who claims the arrested pigeon is his, says the code is actually his mobile phone number.
Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper has identified the man as Habibullah and reports that he owns a dozen pigeons.
Habibullah told the paper that his pigeon was a “symbol of peace” and India should “refrain from victimising innocent birds”.
This is not the first time a pigeon flying from Pakistan has landed in trouble with Indian officials.
In May 2015, a white pigeon was arrested after it was spotted by a 14-year-old boy in a village close to the border.
And in October 2016, another pigeon was taken into custody after it was found with a note threatening the Indian prime minister.
The two nations have been rivals for a long time, with the last full war between them taking place in 1971./bbc.com