Mumbai police have been conducting combing operations through the city to identify six men who were spotted paragliding last week close to Mumbai’s coast, putting security agencies on high alert.
A Pawan Hans helicopter pilot had apparently spotted six men about 2 nautical miles from the Mumbai coast near J W Mariott Hotel in Juhu on January 13. The issue takes significance as the intelligence bureau had alerted state police agencies across the country in 2010 of a possible aerial attack by militants using paragliders. As per an order released by the Mumbai police in November 2015, paragliding is banned in the city.
A manhunt was launched for the six persons, and the Santacruz police station which took cognizance of the report, conducted a combing operation around the area. Police officials however said nothing has been determined yet. A senior crime branch officer, requesting anonymity said, “We have been combing the area to figure out who was flying the paragliders, and if any such event was organized in the area. We are also checking hotels and lodges across the city to identify if any suspicious person has checked in the last five days.” An official of the Mumbai police said the possibility of the sighting being that of balloon or kite was not ruled out as January 13 was around the Makar Sankranti festival during which kites are flown.
According to the information provided by Captain R S Nandal to Santacruz police station, he spotted six white and blue coloured paragliders about 1000 to 1600 feet above ground level when he was flying his helicopter at 9:10 am.
Following the captain’s report, senior police inspector Shantanu Pawar alerted all security agencies including the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), crime branch, special branch and the Mumbai police’s control room.
Additional Director General of police (Anti-terrorism Squad) Vivek Phansalkar told HT that the Juhu ATS unit had thoroughly investigated the matter and the possibility of something suspicious is remote. The nearest paragliding centre is near Kamshet, Pune, but they had not sent any paragliders to Mumbai on January 13, he added. “We are still looking into the matter,” Phansalkar said.
The intelligence bureau had in 2010 learnt that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) had procured 50 paragliders from Europe, and was training in Pakistan to launch an aerial attack, information that was corroborated by Syed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal after his arrest in 2012. In the interrogation, Jundal said that he had seen about 150 paragliders packed and kept in a room which the LeT described as ‘Jumbo Room’ in Karachi, and that the terrorist outfit had plans of attacks using both the aerial and sea routes.