Hours after receiving threat messages warning of a 26/11-like attack in the city late Friday, Mumbai Police on Saturday stepped up security across the city, the coastline and crowded areas, while closing the Gateway of India and some other tourist spots.
The police, already on alert after a yacht was found off Raigad coast with weapons on Thursday, closed several tourist spots for visitors after 7 pm and stepped up deployment across the city.
The traffic police’s helpline number had received messages on its WhatsApp number around 11.35 pm on Friday, claiming that an attack will soon be executed in the city to revive memories of the November 26, 2008 attacks. Police said the messages warned that “preparations are on to blow up” the metropolis.
Sources said a man was detained from Virar, near Mumbai, in connection with the threat messages. Following the messages, an FIR was registered by Worli police against an unknown person under Section 506 (2) (criminal intimidation).
The person sending the messages claimed that while he is from Pakistan, a few people from India are helping him carry out the attack. Sources said seven phone numbers, purportedly official numbers of UP Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) officers, were shared in the messages, which claimed in broken Hindi that UP ATS is preparing to blow up Mumbai. “The person sending the messages also shared the UP ATS chief’s number,” a source said, adding that the messages seem to be fake.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Vivek Phansalkar told the media, “Prima facie, the number seems to be from Pakistan. The messages mention a terror threat to Mumbai. All agencies, including Mumbai Police, its Crime Branch and Maharashtra ATS are investigating the case. We are verifying the numbers (mentioned) in these chats.” Phansalkar said, “We are taking it very seriously and working to ensure no harm is caused to anyone.”
Asked about the fact that the messages were in Hindi, and not in Urdu, and whether there was an attempt to create a fake IP address so that the messages would appear to have come from a Pakistani number, he said, “We cannot rule out any possibility without investigation.”
On media reports tracing the number to a Lahore-based gardener, who claimed that his number had been “hacked”, Phansalkar said police are looking into this aspect, too.
An officer said, “The person who sent the messages also warned that the attack could be carried out on the lines of the Sidhu Moosewala murder or the Udaipur tailor’s killing.”
Reacting to NCP leader Ajit Pawar’s demand that the threat messages should be taken seriously, Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said, “We are taking the threat messages seriously and necessary action is being taken.”