Updated: March 7, 2016 7:20:48 am
The National Security Guard (NSG) arrived in Gujarat on Sunday following intelligence inputs that terrorists had entered the state from Pakistan to carry out attacks on Maha Shivratri. High alert had been sounded across the state late on Saturday night, and a massive security arrangement was put in place over Sunday.
As security agencies carried out widespread raids and combing exercises, and put up checkposts on highways across the state, a youth in Kheda was injured in police firing while trying to escape after knocking down barricades, the district superintendent of police said.
Gujarat DGP PC Thakur said, “We have specific input about terrorists having infiltrated, so security has been upped at vital installations. Four teams of NSG are at Ahmedabad airport. In view of the threat every constable has been armed. Security has been beefed up at all vital installations and public areas.”
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— ANI (@ANI_news) March 6, 2016
Security tightened outside airport in Ahmedabad after high level security alert issued in Gujarat. pic.twitter.com/seH1q2crNN
— ANI (@ANI_news) March 6, 2016
Security was stepped up in the national capital as well after Delhi Police received specific inputs that the 10 LeT and JeM terrorists who were learnt to have entered India through Gujarat could target the city. Vital installations, important buildings and crowded places were put on watch, and the police heightened vigil near iconic buildings, military installations, prominent malls, hospitals, schools and colleges, an officer said.
“The Special Cell and Crime Branch of Delhi Police have been briefed about the input separately, so that activities of gangs operating in and around the city and elements with suspected terror links can be monitored,” the officer added.
The NSG commandos arrived in Gujarat to beef up security at vital defence installations, monuments, the Sardar Sarovar Dam and places of worship ahead of Monday’s Shivratri festivities. One of the NSG teams reached the Somnath temple on Sunday evening, which had turned into a fortress. The Gujarat Department of Youth and Culture announced it had cancelled its Shivratri events for security reasons.
“The NSG team has positioned itself at the temple. We have accepted the suggestion of the police and called off the cultural programmes that were to be held on Sunday and Monday. But the number of tourists has not been affected,” Pravin Laheri, secretary of the Shree Somnath Temple Trust, which manages the temple, said.
DGP Thakur said appeals were being issued to citizens to report anything suspicious. When asked if temples were terror targets, Thakur said, “There is no specific target.”
Chief Minister Anandiben Patel said in Gandhinagar: “Yes, there is a high alert and central and state governments are taking all necessary precautions. I hope and pray that nothing untoward happens.”
In Kheda, Mahendrasinh Parmar, 28, was critically injured in police firing on the Dakor-Mahuda highway, while trying to escape a police checkpoint early on Sunday. Parmar and three other youths were in a car being driven by the son of a head constable attached to Mansa police station in Gandhinagar district.
Kheda SP Maninder Pratap Pawar said, “In Dakor, the Ranchhodraiji temple is a sensitive installation as devotees will be arriving from all over the country for Maha Shivratri on Monday. Dakor town has been cordoned off. When asked to stop at a checkpoint, the youths crashed the car into the barricade, tried to run over the policemen, and sped off towards Dakor city. The police chased the car for almost 15 km. They hid in the fields for over 10 minutes. When they emerged and sped off again, one officer attempted to deflate the tyre. The bullet hit a car door and pierced through the man’s hand and into his stomach.”
Pawar said the youths later told the police that they were drunk, did not have driving licences or vehicle papers, and were afraid of being flagged down. Parmar was rushed to SSG hospital in Vadodara on Sunday. All four youths have been booked for attempt to murder, rash driving and assault against police officers.
In Porbandar, the deputy director of fisheries issued a circular directing a close watch on fishermen who had returned from Pakistan jails. IG (Border Wing) A K Jadeja told The Indian Express that a core group of 22 agencies, including police, BSF and IB were working in coordination.
“We are maintaining records of people who have come from Pakistan on long-term or short-term visas. The water wing of BSF has intensified patrolling. Police are alert along the coastline and border villages like Lodrani, Lakhpat, Nirona etc,” Jadeja said. Gujarat shares 508 km of international border with Pakistan. The government has sanctioned the fencing of 340 km, and work on about 264 km has been completed.
In Bhuj, the local police combed Varnora village, following a tip-off on suspicious men driving around in a black sports car. The operation revealed nothing untoward.
The Junagadh police carried out rigorous checks on vehicles and deployed additional personnel at the Shivratri fair at the foothills of Mount Girnar.
Security was tightened in Dwarkadhish temple in Dwarka, Rannchhodraiji temple in Dakor, and the Reliance refinery in Jamnagar. Jamnagar SP Pradip Shejul said, “We have deployed policemen at ports and jetties. Through the RIL complex is being protected by CISF, we have rushed some of our personnel there as a precautionary measure.”
The Porbandar district Special Operations Group detained two “suspicious” men sailing in a foreign boat. The SOG identified them as Narendra Parmar, an NRI from UK, and Gopal Kotiya, a Porbandar fire brigade staffer. “They were assisting an open sea swimming practice session conducted by Shree Ram Sea Swimming Club of Porbadar,” SOG police inspector Mahesh Badbalia said.
Raids were conducted by a police team led by South Kutch superintendent of police Makrand Chauhan early on Sunday in Varnora village of Bhuj taluka in Kutch district bordering Pakistan, PTI reported, quoting police sources.
The Kutch police also raided Noorani Mahel hotel and Muslim Jamat Khana in Bhuj, PTI reported.
Other metros in the country and Jammu and Kashmir too were put on high alert. Vital installations across Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru, apart from Delhi, like railway stations and airports, were being secured.
In Kolkata, security was stepped up at the NSC Bose International Airport after an e-mail threat that it would be blown up within 24 hours, PTI reported, quoting airport officials. The e-mail came at the airport manager’s ID early on Sunday, and was purportedly sent from Germany, the officials said.
In Punjab, Shivratri celebrations were set to be muted at the famous Jatpat Bani Shivala temple at Kataru Chak village of Pathankot district following the terror alert. The temple is surrounded by 35 acres of semi-forested area, which was teeming with security personnel on Sunday. Police said vendors in the area had decided not to put up stalls in view of the perceived threat.
“We have inputs on a possible terror attack on the temple. Taking precautionary measures, we have searched the area around the temple. So far, we have not found anything suspicious. But we will be keeping the temple under close watch,” DIG Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh said.
According to sources, an IB alert issued to the police forces of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir said both human intelligence and technical intelligence suggested that a group of terrorists may have already reached the Jammu region a few days back, and may be hiding out in the Sidhra locality.
(With ENS New Delhi, Rajkot, Vadodara, Amritsar and Chandigarh)
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