Central agency intercepts ‘top Pakistani terror mastermind’s call’; ATS and Crime Branch working overtime, all leaves cancelled
Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai have been put on high alert following information from the National Investigation Agency that terrorists are plotting to destroy road and rail bridges connecting the island city to mainland India.
(Clockwise) The rail bridge over the Bhayandar creek, the Thane bridge and the old and new Vashi road bridges
Highly placed sources told mid-day that the NIA alert came on July 2. It said the agency had recently intercepted a call from a top Pakistani terror mastermind who is high up on India’s list of most wanted terrorists. The NIA alert said he was heard talking to another person about destroying the bridges that connect Mumbai to the rest of India. On authenticating the call, the NIA on Saturday alerted the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad to beef up security in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai.
The ATS and the top brass of the three cities have zeroed in on rail and road bridges at Thane, Bhayander and Vashi. On Sunday and Monday, top officials reviewed security arrangements around these installations and have asked the respective police commissioners of the three cities to step up security. Sources told mid-day that the ATS believes the terrorists may already be headed to Mumbai.
An officer who has read the NIA alert said the central agency intercepted the call from Pakistan “a few days ago.” Without identifying the mastermind, it said “one of the top-most terrorists based in Pakistan and who is also on India’s list of most wanted.”
Vashi Bridge is one of the bridges that connect Mumbai to Navi Mumbai
The officer said the alert mentions the bridges connecting the city to the rest of India. It also warned of possible attacks in crowded areas in the city, though this part features in almost every terror alert.
A senior ATS officer said, “We have identified three bridges – Bhayandar bridge that connects the city to Virar and beyond, the Thane bridge and the Vashi bridge. All three bridges are built across creeks and provide both road and rail connectivity. The island city will be cut off if these are destroyed.”
Sources told mid-day that a high-level meeting took place on Sunday between all units of the ATS in Mumbai. While sources said ATS chief Atul Chandra Kulkarni chaired the meeting and ATS Special Inspector General Niket Kaushik was present, the two officers did not respond to mid-day’s messages. Maharashtra Home Secretary KP Bakshi, too, did not respond to messages till press time.
Sources added the ATS top brass met senior crime branch officials on Monday. While sources said Additional Commissioner KMM Prasanna was present in the meeting, mid-day could not confirm if Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Sanjay Saxena attended the meeting. Crime Branch officials did not respond to mid-day’s messages.
The Monday meeting saw a detailed plan to secure the three installations being discussed. The leaves of all officers of the Mumbai units of the ATS have been cancelled.
“Several rounds of meeting are taking place and informers have been alerted,” said an officer. “We are working under the assumption that the likely time of the attack could be as early as this week. We are leaving nothing to chance.”