Security officials pull out all stops to ensure safe Obama visit

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Agra, Jan 23: Ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to Agra, the Uttar Pradesh government has sent its top officials to Taj city to work along with the US security team to oversee arrangements and plug gaps, if any.

The entire stretch from Delhi to Agra would remain under high alert on Jan 27 and for three hours people would not be able to use their mobile phones in the vicinity of the Taj Ganj area, the Mall road and the Fatehabad road, officials said.

Obama visit: UP govt beefs up security

Late on Thursday evening Director General (Security) Gopal Gupta, who is the nodal officer for the visit, had detailed discussions with US security officials.

Additional DG Mukul Goyal also conducted prolonged discussions with local police officials to draw up the road map for posting police teams along the national highway two and the Yamuna Expressway. The two roads are already under intensive patrolling by the Provincial Armed Constabulary and the Rapid Action Force.

The US security agencies are not willing to take any chances, sources said. The entire route from the Kheria airport base to the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal, and inside the complex, would be under the direct supervision of the US commandos. They would also be keeping an eye from the rooftops of hotels and houses in the Taj Ganj area.

The chief minister's programme is yet to be finalised but Governor Ram Naik would be in Agra early Jan 27.

Principal Secretary (Home), Devashish Panda and half a dozen other senior officials of the UP government would also arrive Saturday in Agra to take command of the situation.

Officials said schools in the area could be closed Jan 27.

US team has identified eight escape routes through satellite imagery

The aforementioned stretch of road, roughly 12 km, would remain out of bounds for the locals two hours before and after the visit, traffic police said.

The US team has identified eight escape routes through satellite imagery, in case of emergency. These roads would be devoid of humans for a similar duration. All buildings along these routes have also been identified and listed. The commandos posted would ensure that the people would not even be permitted to open their windows.

Senior police officials told IANS there would be close to four dozen vehicles in the President's convoy. Obama would be travelling in his bullet- and mine-proof limousine -the Beast. Special permission is being sought to allow the vehicles to enter the Taj Mahal's eastern gate.

A Supreme Court order had earlier directed people to get down at the Shilpgram complex, 500 metres away, and board a electric vehicle to the entry gate.

American doctors would Friday visit the local Sarojini Naidu Medical College to have a look at the trauma centre and other facilities. CMO H.S. Danu said all arrangements including the critical care ambulance were in place.

The third advance party of the US security team would on Friday arrive for another rehearsal from the Kheria airport gate to the Taj Mahal, sources said. The Archaeological Survey of India Friday began cleaning the gardens and the entire complex. The ramp will be given a fresh coat of paint.

IANS

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