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.
However, police said that based on the description given by some school children, who spotted the armed suspects yesterday, their sketches were issued late last night.
Talking to PTI, 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.
A high-level meeting of Police officials and National Security Guard (NSG) unit commanders was also held at Uran in the morning, where schools and colleges have been shut today.
The Western Naval Command (WNC) of Navy, which called of the search operation, in an official statement here said, “As far as Indian Navy is concerned, operations based on yesterday’s sightings of suspected terrorists are concerned are over. Sanitisation of naval areas has been undertaken. Navy is maintaining close liaison with local police/other agencies for further updates or developments.”
“However, as the state of alertness is concerned, Indian Navy maintains a high state of alert and tight vigil at all times in consonance with the prevailing circumstances,” it added.
The WNC had issued “the highest state of alert” along the Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Raigad coasts after suspicious movement of the men yesterday morning. The Navy had pressed its choppers for surveillance and heightened patrolling in the sea by its vessels and high-speed boats.
Fadnavis, who was in Pune to take a review of various government schemes, said, “I appeal to people not to get panicked as the information received from the girl, who had informed about the suspicious armed people spotted in Uran, has not been corroborated. However, all the agencies–ATS, NSG, Coastal police, Navy and local police are working together and combing operations are going on.”
He also appealed to the electronic media not to televise sensitive establishments in and around Uran for security reasons.
Minister of State (Home) Deepak Kesarkar, however, said information about suspicious men seem to be prima facie true. “Security forces are working on two fronts. The suspects are being identified and combing exercise in the area is also vigorously on,” Kesarkar told reporters here.
“But, there has been no boat, in which they could have travelled, apprehended as yet. Currently, the CCTV footage in the area is being examined and the sketches of the suspects are being circulated in the area,” he said.
The minister said that the government machinery is working overtime to ensure there is no repeat of 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
“Never before in the past have the agencies been so swift in carrying out identification and combing operations. All tools that we have at our disposal to ensure there is no repeat of 2008 attacks. Even if the terrorists have entered, they will not be allowed to harm a single person,” he said.
Kesarkar said he and the Chief Minister were taking regular updates from the DGP on the matter.
Massive combing operation in Uran and Karanja areas is being carried out with the help of Coast Guard and CISF. The elite commandos from National Security Guard (NSG) and state police’s specialised ‘Force One’ have also been roped in.
Some children from Uran Education Society’s school had spotted the suspects, and their teacher informed the police. Subsequently, the WNC issued a “highest state of alert” along the coasts, where several sensitive establishments and assets are located.
The alert came four days after the Uri attack, which left 18 soldiers dead.
Western India’s biggest naval base, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, fertiliser plants, refineries, power plants and the country’s largest container port, JNPT are located in close vicinity of Uran.
Coastal security has been top priority after the 26/11 attacks, in which multiple locations in Mumbai were targeted by Pakistani terrorists who landed in the city using sea route.
The fishing town of Uran is located across the eastern water front of the financial capital. The base located close to the town also houses units of MARCOS, the Navy’s elite strike force.