Bomb threat to over 130 schools in Delhi-NCR sparks massive scare; Police probing terror angle

In a scare of unprecedented scale, over 130 schools in the Delhi-NCR area received an identical bomb threat by email early Wednesday, triggering mass evacuations and searches as panic-stricken parents rushed to pick up their children.
Security personnel inspect a class room at the DPS School after a bomb threat was received by the school via e-mail, at Sector 30, in Noida, Wednesday, May 1, 2024.
Security personnel inspect a class room at the DPS School after a bomb threat was received by the school via e-mail, at Sector 30, in Noida, Wednesday, May 1, 2024.

New Delhi/Noida | In a bomb scare of unprecedented scale, over 130 schools in Delhi-NCR received an identical threat email on Wednesday claiming that explosives had been planted on their premises, triggering massive evacuations and searches as panic-stricken parents rushed to pick up their children. "Nothing objectionable" was found during searches by authorities which later declared it a hoax.

Officials said that the initial probe suspected a "deeper conspiracy" by a terror group during the Lok Sabha elections, adding that there is suspicion that the threat mail was sent by an ISIS module.

The Delhi Police's anti-terror unit special cell has traced the domain of emails to Russia and it is suspected to have been formed with the help of the dark web - an encrypted online content that allows individuals to hide their identity and location from others.

The National Investigation Agency may also take up the probe since the role of a terror group is suspected and the "conspiracy" angle may lead to a pan-India investigation, an official said.

Law enforcement authorities went into a tizzy as police and fire services started receiving a flurry of calls from schools at 6 am on Wednesday.

Delhi Public School (Mathura Road), DPS (Saket), Sanskriti School, Amity School (Saket), DAV (Model Town), DPS (Dwarka) and St. Mary School (Mayur Vihar) were among the education institutions that received the threat email on Wednesday.

A senior Noida Police official told PTI that the email threat was received in seven schools in the satellite city.

It was only an hour or so since parents had dropped off their children when they received messages from the school authorities informing them about an e-mail threatening the safety and security of the students.

Parents rushed to pick up their children and school authorities scampered to bring the students to safety, moving them outside the buildings, while police personnel with sniffer dogs sanitised the premises.

With over 130 schools receiving the bomb threat via email, Delhi Police faced a daunting task as it rushed its dog and bomb squads from one school to another and there was no time to be wasted. The city police went into an overdrive and the situation lasted till evening.

Police said that the number of schools that received the threat may go up as they were compiling the list.

According to a police officer, the email ID from which the threat was sent is 'sawariim@mail.ru'. Sawarim is an Arabic word extensively used by the terror outfit Islamic State (IS) in their propaganda videos over the past several years, the official said.

"Kill them wherever you meet and drive them out of the places from which they drove you. There are many explosive devices in the school...," reads the identical email sent to all schools.

The officer said that the email also contained "aayate (verses) of the holy Quran".

"The main agenda of sending such threat emails in bulk is to create panic and wage a cyber war by some terror group," an officer, who did not wish to be named, said.

A case has been registered under relevant sections of law for offences like conspiracy and threat by the Special Cell and a dedicated team formed to conduct the investigation, an official said.

Security has been stepped up at all metro and railway stations, bus stands and markets in the national capital.

Noida resident Monika Arora, whose son studies in Class 12 in DPS-Noida, said, "My son had left for his extra classes at 6:30 am. Around 8 am, we received a message about a threat e-mail.

"The school authorities asked the parents whose children travel by private taxis to get them picked while those who come in school buses were being sent back."

Rukesh Kumar, whose daughters study in two different schools in east Delhi, said students were evacuated by teachers.

"Some students climbed up trees saying they would be saved if there was an explosion. Some tried to hide in safe places," Kumar said.

Several schools said they were able to carry out a swift evacuation of the students and staff, but dealing with the parents was a challenge.

Some schools also said they plan to issue a circular for parents, outlining the standard operating procedure to guide them on how to react in adverse situations like these.

"We hold frequent evacuation drills to prepare students for situations like an earthquake or other natural calamities. So handling the students was not a problem as our children are trained on how to react during such situations. It was the parents who panicked and were difficult to manage," Sudha Acharya, principal, ITL Public School, said.

The Gurugram Police also remained alert and police and bomb disposal teams visited various schools, including DPS schools in sectors 102 and 103, and conducted searches.

No suspicious object was found anywhere, the police said.

Several schools kept sending updates to the parents through messages on WhatsApp groups.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government issued an advisory for schools, asking them to ensure that the e-mails received at their official e-mail addresses are checked timely.

"In view of the current situation wherein bomb threats were received by a few schools of Delhi in the early hours of the morning of 01.05.2024, it is advised that School Administrators/Managers /Heads of Government/Government Aided and Unaided Recognised Schools under the Directorate of Education, GNCT Delhi should ensure that emails/messages received on official email id of the school at any time of the day (before, during or after school hours) are checked timely," read the advisory issued by the Directorate of Education.

Lt Governor VK Saxena said that Delhi Police has traced the origin of the threat emails. He assured that the culprits would be given strict punishment.

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