Mumbai Police and other security agencies across Mumbai and Maharashtra have further ramped up their already intensive intelligence gathering in the wake of Wednesday’s lone wolf terror attack in London, where a man ploughed a car through pedestrians and knifed a policeman before being shot. The challenge for security agencies is that terror plotters are devising new ways to get around the enhanced security levels across the world. It’s not just about guns and bombs now as it was during the 26/11 terror siege.
After the 2016 terror attack in Nice, where a man drove a huge truck through a crowd, security agencies have been bracing for more such lone-wolf strikes. And London happened on Wednesday.
Security experts say Maharashtra and Mumbai are not immune to lone wolf plots, considering several Indian youth are suspected to have either joined Islamic State (IS) or have been arrested on suspicion of being sympathisers. Another security scare was witnessed when gelatin sticks and iron rods were found on the suburban tracks in Thane and Navi Mumbai recently. However, anti-terror agencies ruled out any IS link.
Security agencies should be prepared to face attacks by individuals, as IS gets increasingly desperate as the pressure on the group mounts, warn experts.
In the future, more attacks could take place and the terror organisation may use new methods, says KP Raghuvanshi, former chief of the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS).
“IS believes that equipment, time and place are not important, but that recruits are important. The terror group believes recruits should be able to carry out attacks where ever they are, with whatever they have,” explains Raghuvanshi who led the probe over the 2006 train blasts in Mumbai.
An ATS officer, who has questioned a few suspected IS recruits, says IS leaders are telling their sympathisers that they don’t need to fly to IS-controlled territory and can carry out attacks wherever they are.
Intelligence agencies have alerted their informants to be vigilant. “The city is on high alert and we have been keeping a close watch on people whom we find suspicious. All the agencies in the city and its neighbourhood have been gathering information through human intelligence,” said an official.
Satish Mathur, Director General of Police of Maharashtra, says, “We are already on a high alert, focussing on railways and Vidhan Bahvan. We also want people’s support. In Mumbai, where the assembly session is underway, we are taking extra precaution and have deployed more forces such as quick reaction team (QRT) and commandos of Force One at the entry and exit points. We are frisking people and anti-sabotage checks are on.”
Four people were killed and at least 20 injured after a man ploughed a car through pedestrians and stabbed a policeman outside Parliament in London on Wednesday. Similarly, IS claimed responsibility of the Nice attack last July. The group was also behind the attack in Berlin in last December.”
Nice carnage triggered first lone-wolf scare
Although the recent security alert came after the London attack, this is not the first time the police have gone into a huddle to prevent lone-wolf attacks.
Security agencies in the city had issued a similar alert after the Nice terror attack in France in 2016.
During that time, agencies were worried as the Ganpati immersion procession was round the corner.
And to ensure that no such incident took place in the city, police had verified papers of heavy vehicles and done background checks on drivers.
All local police stations were alerted and instructed to carry out a check on all truck and tempo drivers, especially those driving bigger vehicles.
The police had also obtained a logbook containing details of drivers transporting Ganesha idols to various immersion points. Apart from these records, mandals were instructed to display vehicle numbers prominently.
These mandals had furnished personal information of drivers and the route taken by them to transport idols for immersion.
After verifying these details, the local beat chowkie officer would give clearance to vehicles, said a senior officer, requesting anonymity.
IS claimed responsibility for the Nice attack last July, when a a man plowed a truck through a mob, killing 86 people.
After the London attack, security agencies have issued an alert as many festivals in the city witness huge gatherings.
“No such trend has been spotted in the city or in the state, but we are keeping a close watch,” said a senior official.