PANAJI: After a suspicious Pakistani boat, on being intercepted by the Coast Guard, exploded off the Gujarat coast on Thursday, the Indian authorities are said to be keeping an eye on a second suspected terror vessel near the maritime borders of the two countries.
Top sources told TOI that the second boat, which also came from Karachi, was spotted around the same time as the first one, by the second sortie of a Coast Guard Dornier aircraft that flew in from Porbandar. The authorities have been monitoring the Pakistani vessel off Keti Bandar, a port on the Arabian Sea, in the Thatta district of Sindh province.
An official confirmed that the Coast Guard had been monitoring the two boats that came from Pakistan since December 31. "The first one blew itself up after it was being chased by the Coast Guard ship near the maritime border off Keti Bandar. There was allegedly a second boat as well which was in operation. The search is on for the second boat. The second boat tried to mingle with the fishing boats on the Indian coast," he said.
The second boat, sources said, tried to escape attention, but a Coast Guard aircraft managed to get its approximate location and its monitoring is under way.
As soon as the terror outfit, suspected to be LeT, got wind of the first vessel having been tracked by the Coast Guard, the second boat went back into Pakistani waters and hence the Indian side is treading cautiously, said sources. The two boats were trying to take advantage of the presence of many fishing boats in the area. "The second boat is now back in Pakistani waters, and hence we are treading carefully. It is a high risk exercise for us too," said the official.
The suspected 'terror vessels' had taken a longer route than what fishing boats usually do when they enter Indian waters. The boats set out in a straight direction from Pakistan. But once they went into the high seas, the boats changed course towards Indian waters, said sources.
Another official said when the first boat was located and Coast Guard ship Rajratan was diverted to tail it, it altered its course towards Pakistani waters. "At that time, the sea was rough, the boat switched off its lights, we tried to communicate to channel 16 (a radio channel), but they did not reciprocate. We started firing, but they did not come out and they instead returned fire. They then blew themselves up."
Officials said the Coast Guard and Indian Navy were alert since December 28 after receiving some intelligence inputs. On December 30 evening, a specific intelligence was received from National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), the technical intelligence agency under the National Security Adviser, which gave approximate location of two boats.
The Coast Guard vessels sailed out from Northwest Command, Gandhinagar, and Mumbai on December 31 and January 1, since the agencies suspected that Mumbai was the target of attack once again.
Even as the operation unfolded, Coast Guard aircraft used gambit tactics to shadow the vessel, allowing it to enter deeper into Indian waters. It was only after that the first boat was intercepted by the Coast Guard ship.