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How Goa gets ready to fight terror
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | December 10, 2008 01:18 IST
Last Updated: December 10, 2008 01:20 IST
"Goa [Images] has always been a soft target because it is an international tourist destination," says Goa Chief Minister Digmabar Kamat.
In February 2008, when Hyderabad resident Mohammed Ghouse was arrested in Bangalore, he gave a chilling account of the terror plans in Goa.
Riyazuddin Nasir alias Mohammed Ghouse is deeply anti-American and anti-Europeans. He thinks that Americans and Europeans are "anti-Muslim".
Goa was his target because the US -- and most Western countries -- is too difficult to enter. He had formed a team with associates Asaduallah Abubaker and Mohammed Asif to hit Goa. According to reports, Ghouse visited Goa and surveyed the beaches popular among tourists.
According to the latest briefing of the Mumbai police, Ghouse took training with Ajmal Kasab, a captured terrorist in the Mumbai terror attack.
While talking to rediff.com, Kamat said he is aware of the threat and gave an account on how he is gearing up the government machinery to fight terrorism.
He said, 'Last year also, before the Christmas season, we were told that Goa could be the target of the attack. Lakhs of tourists visit Goa. Terrorists know that if they try to do anything to Goa, it will affect India. But, we have taken extra-ordinary precautions. We have geared up Coast Guards, Navy, Customs. Unfailingly, we conduct meetings. We review our security and never show laxity. We have summoned some boats and we are getting few more boats for surveillance."
He said the state is getting help from every quarter.
"The Navy is taking care of ports of Goa and South coast is under Coast Guards where they are vigilant. Two additional companies of para-military forces are stationed in Goa. They are also guarding important installations."
Kamat has to his credit the successful functioning of the Goa International Film festival.
He told rediff.com, 'We have recently conducted international film festival without any problem. People from 44 countries came and enjoyed the film festival. More than 1 lakh people saw films in Goa."
After the film festival, Goa had a huge function for Saint Francis Xavier where more than 60,000 people participated.
"We took security measures for the St. Xavier's function also. In Goa, we review security on day-to-day basis. The state's borders have been sealed and all the vehicles entering Goa have been properly marked. I am confident about our security measures. We have started combing operations in slum areas. We are continuously checking hotels and guests identity. We have been checking university and colleges and have been enrolling foreign students only after proper check. We are taking all precautions. We don't want to take any chances," he said.
Kamat has recently asked the media in the state to observe restrain while reporting. He defends his advisory, 'As I say, this is my Goa and my India. Others should also have similar feelings. We should not do anything that would harm interest of the State or the country. Media, politicians and public should be little cautious while saying something important. Terrorism [Images] is a serious issue we should not be flippant. We should see that unnecessarily panic is not created. Unnecessarily people should not get excited. Terrorism is a very, very serious issue. Slight remarks can create bitterness and panic in public."
He said, "All of us should be united in fight against terror. Terror doesn't have caste, religion or political affiliation. Terrorists only aim is devastation. So, people should get together against it. In one voice, we should fight back."
He ended on a confident note, "In spite of terror threat, since last one year tourists are coming to Goa. We are careful and we never lower our guards. Tourists love Goa. They know how beautiful is Goa, people are nice and peace loving. There is communal harmony. And, of course, there are beaches."
Goa attracts around 2 million tourists, including 2 lakh foreign tourists. Around 20,000 British backpackers visit Goa every year.
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