Exposing a major chink in maritime security, dummy terrorists managed to infiltrate the city at five of the six locations where ‘Operation Sagar Kavach’, a mock excercise, was recently carried out. A high-level meeting on this huge security breach would be held shortly with the chief secretary, sources said.
A bi-annual exercise started after the November 26, 2008 attacks — when terror visited the Mumbai through the sea — Sagar Kavach was conducted this year on May 17 and 18 with all stakeholders, including the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard and the Coastal Police, aware of the drill and actively participating.
However, Coast Guard personnel pretending to be terrorists managed to sneak into the city from five locations.
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Explaining the drill, an official said personnel from the Indian Coast Guard posed as terrorists (red force), while the the Coastal Police enacted the blue force. The mission of the reds was to ferry ‘explosives’ and ‘arms’ boxes and land unnoticed in Mumbai, dodging the coastal wing of the Mumbai Police. The blue force was expected to foil the attempts.
“Five of the total six Coast Guard officials managed to sneak in the boxes without being intercepted. Only one was caught by the police. A detailed report has been prepared by the Indian Coast Guard officials and a meeting with senior bureaucrats on the security breach will take place soon,” a senior intelligence official told The Indian Express.
When asked which were these landing points in the city, the official said the confidential report was not shared by the Coast Guard and it would only be discussed in the meeting.
However, sources claimed that one of the locations breached by the CG team was Badhwar Park, the route taken by Ajmal Amir Kasab and nine other terrorists to enter the city.
The official said the strike rate of the reds in infiltrating the city was alarming. “Five of the six managing to sneak in is a big concern and calls for some introspection by the Coastal Police.”
One of the installment of this bi-annual exercise is generally carried before the rains, as during the monsoon, with fishing prohibited in the waters, detecting a stray boat becomes easy for the police (blue force).
Explaining this, the official said, “Fishing activities are almost nil during the three months of monsoon. So, if there is a stray boat coming towards the coast, it can be identified easily. But here the idea is to send in men when fishing activities are going on and check whether they are being intercepted. During 26/11 terror attacks, the 10 terrorists had sneaked into Mumbai in a dinghy.”
This is not the first time that Mumbai’s coastal vulnerability has been exposed. Last year too, just around a week ahead of the 26/11 anniversary, Operation Sagar Kavach was carried out and in that too, ‘terrorists’ had managed to sneak in at five points.
Another official, however, pointed out that it is not an easy task for the coastal police to detect terrorists when fishing activities are in full swing.
“There are other issues, like fishermen not registering their boats or using the same registration for several boats. Also, many of them do not disclose the movement of their boats and who is on board,”the official said.
“The coast guard in the past had proposed to create a harbour like in North Chennai. The proposal was that all boats go and enter from the same harbour so that their movements can be registered. The proposal also talked of providing subsidised diesel to fishermen as an incentive,” the official said.