A high alert was sounded along the coast of the Indian city of Mumbai and adjoining areas on Thursday after a group of men were spotted moving suspiciously near a naval base at Uran in Raigad district, leading to multi-agency search operations.
Late on Thursday night, the police released a sketch of one of the suspects and circulated it among all the investigating agencies.
The sketch was based on the description provided by the three school students who reportedly spotted the men near the naval base.
A reporter from Indian national daily DNA tweeted the sketch released by the police.
Security was heightened at several naval facilities along the coast as the schoolchildren claimed the four men dressed in black were carrying weapons.
"As per the reports, five to six persons were sighted in Pathan suits and appeared to be carrying weapons and backpacks," Naval spokesperson Cdr Rahul Sinha said in a statement.
They were seen moving around the naval ammunition depot INS Abhimanyu in the Karanja area, a naval officer informed.
The base located close to the town also houses units of MARCOS, the Navy's elite strike force.
Multi-agency search operations were initiated amidst the alert. The Navy pressed its choppers for aerial surveillance and heightened patrolling in the sea by its vessels and high-speed boats.
"The navy is at a high state of alert in Mumbai and adjoining areas after receiving inputs regarding suspicious activity reported by school children," Navy spokesman Captain DK Sharma told AFP.
"We are taking utmost care and precautions," Mumbai police spokesperson Ashok Dudhe also told AFP.
Maharashtra's chief minister Devendra Fadnavis appealed to citizens to maintain calm and not be panicked by the reports.
Fadnavis who is en route to Mumbai from the United States assured that the state and central government were taking all necessary precautions and are investigating the report.
He said the state Director General of Police Satish Mathur, Mumbai Police Commissioner Dattatray Padsalgikar and the Intelligence Commissioner had briefed him on the matter and they were keeping a close watch on the situation.
Teams of elite anti-terror commando force NSG have been deployed in three locations in Mumbai and another team has been kept ready in Delhi to be flown if required.
Security beefed up at JNPT
There is tight security at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) following the alert.
"We have beefed up the security measures and alerted all our staff. The CISF, which takes care of our security is on high alert and there has been an increase in the number of personnel out on the field," a senior port official said.
The official said the standard of surveillance in the port spread over 1,500 acres, adjoining to the fishing town of Uran where the suspects were spotted.
JNPT is the country's largest container port that handles over half of the country's container traffic.
Mumbai has been exposed to security threats in the past. Uran, the area where the four men were spotted, is about 50 kilometres from Mumbai. The Mumbai carnage in 2008 left 166 dead after 10 terrorists who came by sea attacked multiple locations in the city.
(WION with inputs from agencies)