The national capital was put on high alert on Sunday following intelligence inputs that more than half a dozen Pakistan-based militants had sneaked into Gujarat and could stage attacks anywhere ahead of Maha Shivratri festival.
Authorities rushed four teams of National Security Guard (NSG) commandos to Gujarat and cancelled Monday’s Maha Shivratri festival at the Somnath temple, where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims were expected to gather.
In Delhi, security personnel fanned out across crowded markets such as Sarojini Nagar and Lajpat Nagar, put up barricades to check vehicles at many places and frisked visitors to popular temples across the city.
The alert was sounded after Pakistani national security adviser Naseer Khan Janjua reportedly informed Indian counterpart Ajit Doval about the threat late on Saturday night. No militants have been traced so far.
Also, on Friday, a BSF patrolling team discovered an abandoned boat — allegedly from Pakistan — off Gujarat’s Koteshwar coast. Nothing suspicious was found on the vessel but it was the fifth such spotting in less than three months.
Janjua’s tip-off, an unusual gesture on the part of Islamabad, comes at a time when New Delhi has linked progress in peace talks with action against anti-India militant groups said to be behind the January attack on the Pathankot Indian Air Force base.
“Like all intelligence inputs, this input is being dealt with requisite seriousness,” said a home ministry official who didn’t want to be named. Union home minister Rajnath Singh and his top aides are monitoring the situation, he said.
Gujarat director general of police PC Thakur said three NSG teams were on standby in Ahmedabad while one was deployed at the Somnath temple.
“A counter terror task force of the NSG reached Ahmedabad at 2am in the morning to deal with any possible terror threat,” said an NSG official. “We are providing cover to the Somnath temple, which is a high-value target and the rest of the commandos are stationed in Ahmedabad with choppers at their disposal.”
Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, who was in New Delhi to attend a women legislators’ meet, told HT that she was “monitoring the situation and had placed the state security apparatus on high alert in consultation with the Central government”.
Gujarat authorities stepped up patrolling at borders with Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra while
police combed hotels and guesthouses and scaled up security at malls, cinema halls and bus stands.
Pakistani officials expressed hope that the sharing of information would help improve the security situation between the two countries that has deteriorated after Pathankot attack.
“We hope that the Indian authorities are able to reciprocate,” Pakistani interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told journalists in Islamabad, adding Pakistan was serious about countering terrorism and improving cooperation with India.