On the left, the Pakistani fishing boat before it was intercepted off the Gujarat coast; on the right, the boat on fire before it sank (Press Trust of India photo)
A fishing boat from Pakistan with four people on board went up in flames and sank off the Gujarat coast in what appeared to be an attempt to evade investigation by the Indian Navy on New Year's Eve, the government said today.
So far, no survivors have been found from the vessel which set sail from near Karachi in Pakistan for what the government described as "an illicit transaction" in the Arabian Sea. Sources said the boat had ammunition that was meant to be passed onto another boat about 350 kms southwest of Porbandar in Gujarat.
However, no details were provided about the recipient boat in the government statement that was headlined "Coast Guard Intercepts Suspect Boat Carrying Explosives in Arabian Sea
" but whose text did
not elaborate on the nature or quantity of explosives.
The government said that on the morning of December 31, Indian security agencies picked up phone intercepts from Keti Bunder near Karachi about "expensive cargo" that was to be delivered near India. The Indian Navy was then alerted; Coast Guard ships and aircraft were used to locate and intercept the boat near the maritime border with Pakistan.
"However, the boat increased speed and tried to escape away from the Indian side of maritime boundary. The hot pursuit continued for nearly one hour," the statement said.
Although the boat did eventually stop after warning shots were fired by the Coast Guard in an hour-long chase, the four-man crew then hid themselves below deck before setting the boat on fire which triggered a large explosion. (18-Hour Operation to Find and Stop Pak Boat: 10 Points)
"The boat was cornered by our team, but it continued sending signals of non-compliance. We followed all protocol to send warnings to the boat," said KR Nautiyal, the Deputy Director General of Operations of the Indian Coast Guard.
In 26/11, a Pakistani boat sailed into Mumbai with 10 terrorists on board who then split into pairs and struck the city's landmarks; 166 people were killed in India's worst-ever terror attack.