High alert in Kerala after blast threats

via Pioneer News Service | Thiruvananthapuram published on July 27, 2008

All district headquarters, vital installations, railway stations, bus stands, religious places, dams, etc in Kerala were on Sunday brought under tight security cover after a television channel in Bangalore receiving two calls threatening to carry out blasts in the State at 7 pm on Sunday. However, the threat failed to prove true but the police were not ready to return to complacence and would continue the unprecedented intense vigil across the State.

The caller, claiming to be based in Pakistan and calling himself a ‘Mujahiddeen’, threatened that Kerala would be the next victim after the serial blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad. The caller said bombs would go off in Kochi and Wayanad at 7.00 pm Sunday, throwing the entire police force in the State into unprecedented alertness. Police officials said this was perhaps the highest security alert the State had ever witnessed.

TV9 in Bangalore received one call at 8.40 pm on Saturday and the second call at 3.20 pm on Sunday from the same number – 091118809 – delivering the same threat information in a mixed communication in English and Hindi. The cyber cell of the Karnataka Police, in association with experts from Central Intelligence agencies, were on the effort to track the call and the primary assumption was that the caller had been using Internet telephony. The recording of the threat call on Sunday was forwarded to the Kerala Police.

The police were not ready to take the threat calls lightly just because the blasts did not occur at the threatened time. Officials said they did not want to relax as there was always the possibility of terror elements using diversionary tactics. They also said the calls could also been part of an effort by some group to assess the response capacity of the security agencies to extremist threat situations.

“It could be a hoax. But it could well be a ‘blank’ dry run. In a sense, the elements could have achieved their limited goal – if they are for real – of assessing our response power and the way warnings are received here,” said an official. Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan reassured the people that there was no need for panic as the State police was prepared and equipped to meet any emergency. He appealed all to avoid falling victims to rumours and to forward information about any suspicious-looking substances or persons to the nearest police stations. After a meeting of top officials here in the wake of the threat calls, Director General of Police Raman Srivastava also said that there was no reason for fear for he had full confidence in the State police and the people of the State.

“We are taking everything seriously and nothing lightly. But I must say that there is no need for panic. We are equipped to meet any emergency,” he said. After an hour elapsed from the time mentioned in the threat calls, top cops said they were not calling off the high-alert security level. They said nothing could be left to chance and added the security would be stepped up further plugging any possible leaks at any place.

Bomb and dog squads held search-and-sweep exercises at all vital installations including the State Secretariat in the capital, the three airports, all major railway stations, IT facilities, commercial establishments, temples like those in Guruvayur and Sabarimala and major dams like Idukki and Mullappeiryar. Police personnel, equipped with modern scanning instruments and communication implements, were posted in sufficient numbers at all points thought to be vulnerable. A bomb-like substance with batteries and connection wires was recovered from the Kannur railway station in the search operation.

Night shows were canceled in almost all major cities and towns, particularly in Kochi, Kozhikode and Thrissur. Police personnel were continuing search even late at night at all points thought to be vulnerable, like bridges, railway track junctions, beaches, parks, etc. Officials said the security arrangements would continue till further orders.

All entry points at borders with the neighbouring States were put under maximum security cover with intense inspection of every incoming vehicles. Border towns also were put under surveillance. Police checks were also engaged at several towns and on the highways.

Kerala had been projected as a risk region after the arrest of SIMI operatives Yahya Khan alias Kammukkutty in Karnataka and Abdul Shibli in Indore, both belonging to Kerala, in March last. The police had been taking particular care to check the vehicles coming into the State from neighbouring states, especially Karnataka, after the arrest of these persons. Thee were strong apprehensions that SIMI and other extremist organizations were recruiting young IT and engineering professionals from Kerala into their folds with the particular intention of spreading their tentacles to areas in the State with concentration of people belonging to a particular community.

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