NEW DELHI: The Coast Guard on Thursday thwarted a possible 26/11-type terror strike or a suicide attack on an Indian warship in the Arabian Sea by intercepting an explosives-laden Pakistani fishing vessel, approximately 350 km from Porbandar port in Gujarat.
According to a Defence Ministry official, a Coast Guard patrol ship warned the suspicious vessel to stop for investigation but the boat sped away, leading to a one-hour pursuit on the intervening night of December 31 and January 1.
The suspicious behaviour of the boat’s crew brought back memories of the 26/11 terror attack in 2008, in which 10 heavily armed militants travelled from Karachi, hijacked an Indian fishing vessel and steered it to Mumbai to go on a three-day rampage during which they killed 166 people.
Officials claimed that technical intelligence agency National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) was reportedly tracking the boat right after it left Keti Bunder port near Karachi. The NTRO later notified the Coast Guard about the boat, after which it was tracked down with the help of a Dornier surveillance aircraft.
A senior official of the Coast Guard said they diverted their surface vessel to intercept the suspicious entity. Coast Guard ship Rajratan was sent to intercept the suspicious vessel in position 365 km west-south west of Porbandar port.
“The Coast Guard ship warned the fishing boat to stop for further investigation of the crew and cargo, but instead the boat sped away and tried to escape from the Indian side of the maritime boundary,” said a Defence Ministry official.
The hot pursuit continued for nearly an hour and the Coast Guard ship managed to stop the fishing boat after firing warning shots. Elaborating on the incident the official said, “Four persons were seen on the boat and they disregarded all warnings by the Coast Guard to stop and cooperate with the investigation. The crew hid below the deck and set the boat on fire.”
“The surface vessel reached the area by around 10.30 pm. When we encountered this boat, it started speeding and moved further into Indian waters. We fired warning shots after which people came on the upper deck of the boat. Then, they went inside the boat and set it on fire,” added a Coast Guard official. The official maintained that the boat sank completely by 6.30 am the next morning (January 1). He also said that Coast Guard ships were still at the area for further investigation.
“Due to darkness, bad weather and strong winds, the boat and those on board could not be saved. It burnt and sank at the same position,” said an official. Coast Guard ships and planes are combing the area for survivors.
“I congratulate the Coast Guard for timely action of intercepting a boat carrying suspected terror groups with surgical precision,” Tweeted defence minister Manohar Parrikar.