Delhi police on Friday issued an alert after the driver of a taxi allegedly hijacked by three unidentified men from Pathankot was found murdered, sparking security concerns in the midst of a nationwide crackdown on suspected Islamic State terrorists.
Police released photographs of suspects and details of the vehicle through its official Twitter handle saying the Maruti Alto was hired by three unidentified men on January 20.
The driver of the vehicle, identified as Vijay Kumar, was later found dead at the Kalta bridge in Kangra, police said. Police in Himachal Pradesh, where the vehicle was registered, said the Alto was not registered with any travel agency.
What sent police into a tizzy was the fact that earlier this month terrorists had killed the driver of another vehicle they had hired before attacking the Pathankot airbase.
“There is no need to panic but we urge people to stay alert. Citizens should inform the police control room if they see any suspicious activity around them,” said deputy commissioner of police Rajan Bhagat said.
The alert came amidst heightened security in the Capital ahead of the Republic Day celebrations to be attended by French President Francois Hollande as the chief guest.
Police sources said the top brass of the police have called a meeting at the India Gate lawns later on Friday to discuss the security details at the vital installations around New Delhi.
Police have already made India Gate and Rajpath out of bounds for vehicles and tourists.
This year, police closed movement of vehicles on Rajpath early in the wake of numerous intelligence reports about possible terror attacks.
“We are taking no chances. We are not allowing anyone to park their cars near India Gate. The lawns have been closed. We are not allowing tourists to stand on the road for long. They can take pictures and leave quickly,” said a senior police officer.
The fresh terror alert came amid raids across the country by sleuths of the National Investigation Agency (NIA)in search of suspected Islamic State terrorists, sources said.
At least six suspected terrorists were detained from different places including Bangalore, the sources added.
Authorities have tightened security across major cities 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 Bangalore, where the French consulate on Thursday received a letter warning against its president’s presence at the Republic Day celebrations.
Police are investigating the source of the letter which said Francoise Hollande should cancel his trip to India beginning Sunday.
Separately, police also 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.
(With agency inputs)