More than a thousand policemen searched hotels, residences and forests in Navi Mumbai’s Uran area on Friday, a day after school children allegedly spotted men with arms near a naval base , as authorities released sketches of two suspects.
The navy and coast guard have been put on alert and launched separate search operations in and around the Mumbai coast. A local school in the area declared a holiday.
Two school children told police on Thursday morning that they spotted some men carrying arms, dressed in Pathani suits and carrying backpacks. The report triggered fear of a repeat of a militant attack that killed 18 soldiers in Kashmir’s Uri town on Sunday.
Local police personnel and state reserve police force (SRPF) scoured the area throughout the day but couldn’t find any physical evidence even after 24 hours of search.
Mumbai was put on high alert and security at important points along the city’s coast beefed up on Thursday as the port zones stepped up security at all landing points along the city’s coast to look out for suspicious activity.
“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 (law and order) of the Mumbai police.
All police stations in the city were ordered to tighten security at vital installations in their jurisdictions and set up nakabandis at designated spots. Local crime branch units were also put on alert.
They kept an eye on the movements of suspicious people and conducted combing operations in hotels and lodges across Mumbai to verify the identities of people who have booked rooms in the past few days.
The coastal wing of the Mumbai police deployed 14 speedboats to patrol the coast. They coordinated closely with the coast guard and the Indian Navy, which have jurisdiction over the deep seas.
The jurisdiction of Mumbai police’s port zone extends to 12 nautical miles from the coast. The anti-terrorism squad was also alerted and asked to keep tabs on any possible chatter about attacks on vital installations in Mumbai or Navi Mumbai.
The local police instructed their network of informers to be on alert as well. The police also concentrated on securing crowded places, for which they teamed up with private security agencies.
“Precautionary measures are being taken and all coastal police stations have been told to step up their presence in the sea in order to keep an eye on any suspicious movements in the waters,” said Sunita Thackray, deputy commissioner of police (port zone).
Officials said the primary focus was on the eastern coastline of Mumbai, which faces Uran and Navi Mumbai.