A terror alert was sounded in Maharashtra on Thursday after schoolchildren hailing from Uran, a coastal port town near Mumbai, spotted a group of armed men. The alert comes four days after the terror attack in Uri, which claimed the lives of 18 soldiers.
The quiet town was thrown out of gear after the military, Navy, anti terrorist squads (ATS) and local police intensified search operations to trace out the suspects. Choppers were pressed into action to conduct an aerial survey of the area.
Security agencies reacted expeditiously after schoolchildren reported the suspicious men. The town turned into a military barrack by around 10 am. “The Air Force, Navy and local police personnel were on high alert after receiving reports about the suspicious men,” said Mahendra Ananda Kamble, opposition leader of the Uran municipal council. He added that residents were quick to come out of their homes after spotting defense personnel taking over the town.
By 12 noon, the district administration ordered all schools, colleges, government offices and courts to remain closed. “Schoolchildren were urged go home after we received the order from administrative officials,” said an Uran Education Society teacher. By late afternoon, the coastal town wore a deserted look.
Navy, police and Air Force teams carried out search operation across the city. A nakabandi was initiated at all strategic points.
Police were tight lipped and refused to comment on the situation. “We initially thought this was a mock drill that would end in an hour. But by the evening, the presence of security personnel created panic among residents,” said a resident.
Hemant Nagrale, Navi Mumbai’s commissioner of police refused to comment on the ongoing search operation. When dna asked him about the presence of militants in the area, he said, “We are verifying the claims made by the schoolchildren.” He refused comment on whether the ongoing search operation was part of a mock drill. Nagrale was present at Uran police station till 5pm.
According to residents, a group of schoolchildren saw around four men with arms near the naval facility. The students said the men were wearing Pathani dress and spoke in a different language. The schoolchildren, who are in teens, were quick to inform the school principal. The principal in turn informed police. “We spotted two choppers flying over the town at around 10am. We thought it was a routine Navy drill. As soon as we spotted the Air Force chopper and defense vehicles, we knew something was wrong,” said Anjali Patil, an Uran resident.