Authorities tightened security across major cities on Thursday following a flurry of intelligence reports warning that militants could target everything from busy malls to millions of pilgrims visiting the Ardh Kumbh.
Extra paramilitary forces were deployed in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, where the French consulate received a letter warning against its president’s presence at India’s Republic Day celebrations.
Police are investigating the source of the letter which said Francoise Hollande should cancel his trip to India beginning Sunday. Bangalore’s additional commissioner of police, Chengal Reddy, told reporters that the letter--written in poor English and mentioning al Qaeda--has still not been ruled out as a hoax.
Home minister Rajnath Singh and Delhi police officials said they have reviewed security arrangements for the parade, including positioning army sharpshooters on rooftops near the parade route and clearing buildings and roads.
Separately, police arrested four men in Uttarakhand on Wednesday on suspicion of planning an attack in Delhi. Security officials said the four had been under surveillance for several months after their online activities drew suspicion, including contacts with people in territory in Iraq and Syria controlled by the Islamic State group.
Police said the men had also been planning strikes in Haridwar, where thousands of devotees are now gathered for the Ardh Kumbh festival.
In Panaji, Goa Police have stepped up security in the state and were investigating a postcard received by the State Secretariat and warning to harm Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
In Mumbai, the police are yet to trace six mysterious paragliders who were seen near the city’s coast on January 13. Authorities said they have taken the incident seriously because of a 2010 intelligence report that the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba had procured 50 paragliders from Europe and was conducting a training in Pakistan to launch an aerial attack.
Authorities in Madhya Pradesh are on alert after a suspected terrorist named Syed Ahmed escaped from police custody by jumping off a running train on Wednesday night at Hoshangabad, about 70 km south east of Bhopal.
Security agencies have been warning of attacks by Islamist groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda since the militant strike on an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot earlier this month.