A suspected Pakistani boat, allegedly from Karachi, was intercepted by the Indian coast guard on New Year's Eve and chased for an hour before its crew blew itself up, according to a statement from the Indian government.
The boat was from Keti Bunder near Karachi with four people on board. The incident happened at 365 kilometres off Porbandar coast in Gujarat on the night of December 31, according to the Indian government.
A press statement from the Indian Defence Ministry said that this intelligence-based midnight operation was conducted by Indian Coast Guard ships and aircraft.
"As per the intelligence inputs received on 31st December, a fishing boat from Keti Bunder near Karachi was planning some illicit transaction in Arabian Sea," according to the statement. "Based on the input, Coast Guard Dornier aircraft undertook sea - air coordinated search and located the suspect fishing boat."
The "unlit boat" was intercepted by the Coast Guard Ship, which warned the crew on the fishing boat to stop for further investigation. According to the Defence Ministry, the boat's crew increased its speed instead and tried to escape from the Indian side of the maritime boundary, resulting in a hot pursuit for nearly an hour.
Indian Coast Guard foiled a major terror bid on New Year’s Eve, intercepted a suspicious Pakistani fishing boat pic.twitter.com/Lr5JXGI0Os— TIMES NOW (@timesnow) January 2, 2015
When the Coast Guard finally managed to stop the boat after firing warning shots, they saw four people on board the boat, who tried to hide themselves in the lower deck compartment and set the boat on fire, resulting in an explosion and a major fire on the boat, according to the statement.
"Due to darkness, bad weather and strong winds, the boat and persons on board could not be saved or recovered," as per the Indian Coast Guard account. "The boat burnt and sank in the same position, in early hours of 1st January."
The Coast Guard ships and aircraft are continuing their operations in the area to check for any possible survivors. The Coast Guard and other security agencies have been at high vigil in maritime and coastal areas since the last couple of months due to several threat inputs received from the sea, according to the statement.
The boat crossed the maritime boundary at around 10 pm on December 31 night, reported Headlines Today.
Coast Guard intercepted the unlit boat around December 31 midnight, 365 km West-South West of Porbandar: Defence Ministry— NDTV (@ndtv) January 2, 2015
Nothing was recovered from the ship, according to NDTV. The report suggested that the boat was carrying explosives, possibly RDX.
According to an NDTV report, the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), an intel agency under the National Security Adviser (NSA) had intercepted a conversation where it was revealed that the boat was carrying some expensive equipment, which could possibly be explosives, or arms, or something else which is yet to be determined.
Following the suspicious nature of the conversation, the Coast Guard was alerted to find this particular vessel, which it was able to locate after an intensive 12 hour-long search. However the crew on board the vessel refused to surrender, which further raised suspicions.
A BJP spokesperson meanwhile told NDTV that it was a "terror" plot. The Coast Guard also told Times Now, "No doubt the crew of the boat were terror operatives." Venkaiah Naidu said, "Pakistan has aiding, abetting, funding and training terrorists."
BJP spokesperson on boat that blew itself up off Gujarat coast: "It was a 'terror' plot. Possibly an attempt to sneak terrorists into India"— NDTV (@ndtv) January 2, 2015
Times Now quoted Defence Ministry sources saying that three calls had been intercepted which were the last calls made between the controllers and the boat crew.
The first call, according to Times Now, had the controllers tell the crew, "Paanch paanch lakh rupiya diye hain. (Five lakh rupees each have been given)" According to the report, it suggests that that the families of the crew had been given Rs 5 lakh each, though this is as yet unconfirmed by the Defence Ministry.
The second call, according to Times Now, was an instruction from the controllers to the crew asking them to assess the situation before deciding what to do next.
A third call, which was the last call, was from the boat crew to the controllers confirming that the equipment they were supposed to carry had been delivered to them, according to the Times Now report.
The report also said that the boat could be possibly manned by LeT operatives.
Former Western Commander Chief of the Indian Navy Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha said that it was an extremely well-coordinated response by the Indian Coast Guard.