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Hoax calls keep cops on their toes everywhere

July 28, 2008 18:34 IST

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A rash of hoax phone calls in several states about threat of explosions added to the scare on Monday as back-to-back terror strikes kept urban India on the edge with vital installations and places of worship wrapped in unprecedented security cover.

Security was being constantly reviewed in all major cites with additional forces being deployed in Mumbai, Delhi [Images], Kolkata and Chennai in the wake of the serial blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad [Images] over the weekend. Crowded markets, shopping malls, railway stations and airports were in for extra vigil.

Abandoned and unclaimed objects fuelled panic in a few cities as bomb disposal squads worked overtime to calm people. In cities like Pune, hoax SMSes to avoid busy areas triggered anxious moments.

Security was especially tightened in Kerala [Images] in the wake of a phone call to a Kannada TV channel that the state would be targetted by terrorists. Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan convened a high-level meet to review the security preparedness. The famed Sri Krishna temple in Guruvayur was under special watch.

With a plot to carry out bomb attacks on Independence Day in Tamil Nadu foiled by the police on Sunday, security was beefed up in the state.

Hoax calls and panic over abandoned objects were reported in Karnataka, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra. They kept the police on their toes and authorities were taking no chances.

In Madhya Pradesh [Images], another Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state, screening of films at night was banned as a precautionary measure. There were also reports that devotees have been asked not to carry coconuts or any offerings to temples in the state.

A bomb squad was rushed to the busy Jashodnagar cross road on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai highway after an abandoned tiffin box was found lying on the roadside. The police said whether the abandoned box is a bomb can be determined only after the bomb squad completed investigations.

The high alert in Kerala sounded on Sunday will continue for a few more days, even as bomb hoaxes were reported from two places in the state on Monday. People in Areekkode in Malappuram district panicked for a while on Monday morning after they found an object wrapped in cellophane tape at a bus stop.

The bomb squad was immediately alerted and the object was found to be a burnt-out tube of an emergency lamp covered in cellophane tape with an exhausted cellphone battery attached to it. The police said some miscreants would have placed it to spread a scare among people.

The police carried out an intensive search in a private college in Pathanamthitta after the college received an anonymous call threatening that two bombs had been planted on the campus. The threat turned out to be a hoax.

In Kolkata, there was a bomb hoax at the Coal India headquarters. At around 11 am, two phone calls were received at CIL's administration and the member secretariat's offices where the caller claimed that a bomb had been planted at the office and would explode at 12 noon.

A bomb squad along with sniffer dogs was immediately pressed into service. But nothing was found, the sources said.

In Chennai, five persons were arrested for circulating hoax SMSes warning of bomb blasts in the city. Commissioner of police R Sekar warned people against such activities, saying it was a non-bailable offence that could also lead to three years' imprisonment. "Even forwarding such messages is a crime," he said.

Railway stations, especially on suburban routes, were under tight security cover and metal detectors were placed at some important stations. Frequent warnings were being issued to passengers through public announcements, to be cautious about unclaimed articles and report the presence of any such articles, to authorities.

In Bangalore, the police were conducting search operations following two phone calls claiming that bombs had been planted in the vicinity of a school and a junior college. Parents of a local school rushed to the institute to pick up their wards, following a threat call that a bomb had been planted in the vicinity, the police said.    

A bomb disposal squad rushed to the spot to search the area and defuse any explosives conducted a 45-minute search but found nothing. A similar call was also reported from Jayanagar area which said that a bomb had been planted in the vicinity of Vijayanagar Junior college. The police have not traced any material during searches.

Both calls appear to be hoaxes, the police said, adding that the searches would however continue to rule out the possibility of any explosive material being present at the spots.

A Mangalore report said a bomb squad was pressed into action after an unclaimed suitcase was found placed on a motorbike in the central park area. According to the police, the bike owner, who had parked his vehicle, said the suitcase did not belong to him and was uanware who had placed it on his vehicle. The unclaimed baggage had been now shifted to Nehru Maidan where the bomb squad would examine its contents.

In Pune, a hoax SMS doing rounds in the city put the police in a spot as it "warned" people to keep away from crowded areas including the Dagdusheth Ganesh temple in the heart of the city which is always thronged by devotees.

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