India’s commercial capital was put on high alert on Thursday and search operations launched over land and sea after schoolchildren spotted five suspicious-looking men close to a naval base in Navi Mumbai.
National Security Guard commandos were deployed in three locations in Mumbai and another team is on stand-by in Delhi. The search operations involving Navy choppers and Coast Guard patrol boats came four days after suspected Pakistan-based militants attacked an army camp at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir, leaving 18 soldiers dead.
“I am only confirming that Navy is at a high state of alert after getting this input regarding suspicious activity reported by some school children in Karanja near Mumbai,” said captain DK Sharma, spokesperson of Indian Navy.
The Navy base is located at Uran, about 50km from Mumbai. Police said they closed down the schools in the area before conducting searches.
Mumbai police’s port zone also put the 91 landing points along the city’s coast on increased surveillance.
The vulnerability of Mumbai’s coastline was exposed in 2008 when a group of Lashkar-e-Taiba militants landed in the city and carried out one of the worst terror attacks in the India, leaving scores of people dead and many more injured.
Police said security has been increased at sensitive locations along the coast, including the Gateway of India, Raj Bhawan, the offshore drilling rig at Bombay High, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and other establishments near the sea.
“We have declared a state of alert in the city following the incident and requisite steps are being taken to secure it,” said Deven Bharti, joint commissioner of Mumbai police (law and order).
Police put up barricades along sensitive roads, searched vehicles and frisked motorists.
Crime branch units were conducting combing operations in hotels and lodges across Mumbai to ascertain and verify those who have hired rooms recently, police said.
The coastal wing of Mumbai police sent out 14 speed boats for coastal patrolling. The jurisdiction of Mumbai police’s port zone extends to 12 nautical miles from the coast.
Precautionary measures are being taken and all the coastal police stations have been informed to step up presence in the sea to keep watch on any suspicious movements in the waters,” said Sunita Thackray, deputy commissioner of police (port zone).
Officials said that the focus is on the eastern coastline which runs through Uran and Navi Mumbai.
Gujarat, which is between Mumbai and Pakistan, was also put on alert and security agencies have been asked to keep a close vigil on the coastline, officials said.
“After a high alert sounded along the Mumbai coast today (Thursday), we have also issued an alert along the Gujarat coast. All the district SPs of coastal areas have been asked to remain alert and step up security along the coast through continuous patrolling,” Tirth Raj, additional DGP (law and order), said.
(with agency inputs)