A high alert was sounded along the Mumbai coast and adjoining areas today after a group of men were spotted moving suspiciously near a naval base at Uran in Raigad district, leading to multi-agency search operations by multiple agencies.
"As per the reports, five to six persons were sighted in Pathan suits and appeared to be carrying weapons and backpacks," Naval spokesman Cdr Rahul Sinha said in a statement. Some reports said they were in military uniform.
The alert, which comes four days after the Uri attack which left 18 soldiers dead, has led to elite forces like National Security Guard (NSG), state police's specialised commandos Force One and ATS being roped in for the search and security, highly placed police sources said.
The Navy pressed its choppers for aerial surveillance and heightened patrolling in the sea by its vessels and high-speed boats.
Some children from Uran Education Society's school first spotted the suspects, and their teacher informed the police, the police said, adding none of them have been traced.
The Western Naval Command (WNC) issued a "highest state of alert" along the Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Raigad coasts where several sensitive establishments and assets are located.
Western India's biggest naval base, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, fertiliser plants, refineries, power plants and the country's largest container port, JNPT are located in close vicinity of Uran.
Coastal security has been a top priority after the 26/11 attacks, in which multiple locations in Mumbai were targeted by Pakistani terrorists who landed using the sea route.
The fishing town of Uran is located across the eastern water front of the financial capital. The base located close to the town also houses units of MARCOS, the Navy's elite strike force.
Indian Navy's Chief PRO Capt D K Sharma said the search operation was launched along with Maharashtra police and other agencies.
According to information received by authorities, four school students spotted the men near Uran and Karanja area.
The Maharashtra police has alerted all police stations along the coast, Director General of Police Satish Mathur told PTI here.
Security has been beefed up at sensitive spots along the coast, including the Gateway of India, Raj Bhavan, offshore oil assets Bombay High, JNPT, BARC and other major establishments near the sea.
"Indian Navy's Western Naval Command expeditiously reacted to the situation by first initiating an alert and informing all coastal security stakeholders... No person has been located or apprehended till now," Sinha added.
Navi Mumbai Commissioner of Police, Hemant Nagarale, and senior officials rushed to Uran to review the security situation and gathered details from the children, who spotted the men moving suspiciously.
The coastline is guarded by a three-tier network which starts with the local police (with its coastal police stations) closest to the land, followed by the Union Home Ministry-led Coast Guard while the Indian Navy patrols the high seas.