A day after a high alert was sounded in Mumbai coast and adjoining areas after a group of men was spotted moving suspiciously near a Naval base at Uran near here, the multi-agency search for them continued for the second day today, although the Navy called off its operation.
Police said none of the men could be traced so far even as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who was in Pune, said the information about suspicious armed people being spotted in Uran was yet to be corroborated.
Satish Mathur, Director General of Police, said:
Search operations by police is still on in Uran area. But, so far, nothing significant has been come across.
He said police had also submitted a confidential report on the search operations to the government.
The Western Naval Command had declared a high alert on Thursday along the coastline of Navi Mumbai, Raigad, Mumbai and Thane after after two schoolchildren in Uran reported seeing five to six “suspicious looking” men carrying weapons and backpacks.
The schoolchildren reportedly spotted the men in Pathani suits, with gloves on, their faces covered and carrying weapons in Uran around 50km from Mumbai, The Indian Express reported. The area has a navy base and ONGC facility. Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT), the largest container terminal in India, is also at Uran. All this makes it a sensitive area.
A specialised counter-terrorism unit, Force One, was deployed in the city while security was tightened around the Taj Hotel and the Gateway of India.
The police, Navy and the CISF were deployed for search operations.
As per the sources, the children reportedly heard them say “ONGC” and “school” repeatedly.
On Friday morning, the Maharashtra Home Department said that combing operations in Uran were continuing and an investigation was started on the abandoned boat that was seized on 7 September near Uran.
Later on, Maharashtra Home Department officials ruled out the terror angle in the seized boat matter. The boat was used for diesel theft by three locals, they said.
Two students informed us that they saw suspicious men in Uran. While one student claimed that he spotted one person, the other claimed to have seen five persons.Satish Mathur, Maharashtra Director General of Police
Police have withheld the identities of the two children.
The general secretary of the school spoke to the The Indian Express about the students reporting spotting the men.
She (student) told us that on her way to school, at Bori Naka, she saw five men dressed in Pathani suits, with gloves on and their faces covered. She said they were carrying guns and running in the direction of the school. She was worried that the men would attack the school.Anand Bhingarde, General Secretary, Uran Education Society
Swati Shiralkar, the principal of UES, also announced that no student was to leave the school premises.
Teams from the elite anti-terror commando force, the National Security Guard (NSG), were deployed in three locations in Mumbai and another team was kept ready in Delhi to be flown in if required.
It was a precautionary step to cut down reaction time in case of an emergency situation, sources said.
The NSG teams deployed at the three locations in Mumbai were drawn from the commando force’s Mumbai hub. The team in Delhi was positioned at the NSG base in IGI airport in Delhi and was on high alert, official sources said.
Maharashtra Home Secretary KP Bakshi asked the Maharashtra DGP to submit a detailed report on the terror alert.
The Indian Navy issued an official statement regarding the state of high alert.
Combing Operations Underway, Report Anything Unusual: CM Fadnavis to the People
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took to Twitter to assure the public that all precautions are being taken by police and that people should not panic.
Sketch of Suspect Released by Police
Late on Thursday night, Mumbai police also released a sketch of one of the suspected terrorists, reported ABP News.
Schools in and around Uran were shut down following the terror alert.
All naval bases in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Raigad were been put on high alert, and so was the air force.
Sources from Indian naval forces said:
Around 11 am, students said they saw four men in Pathani suits talking to each other in an unfamiliar language.
State Minister of State for Home (Rural), Deepka Kesarkar said:
We urge people to maintain calm, not to panic or believe in rumours. People should immediately report any suspicious activity in their vicinity to police. There is no reason to doubt the information provided by the students. But it needs to be cross-checked. We already have the experience of (tackling) terror attacks in Mumbai.
Choppers scouted the area around in which the suspicious men were spotted.
The IG (coastal security) too monitored the situation.
Speaking to CNN-News 18, Mahararashtra Home Secretary KP Bakshi said that security forces believe that the two schoolchildren who allegedly spotted the men have given a sincere description, which will be made available soon to the public.
Further details are awaited.
(With inputs from ANI, PTI and The Indian Express)