In a mid-sea operation that probably averted 26/11 Mumbai terror-type attack, a suspected Pakistani fishing boat carrying explosives was intercepted by the Coast Guards in the Arabian Sea but the four occupants on board set the vessel afire and exploded it before it sank with them.
The incident, which resembled the operation undertaken by terrorists from Karachi who had come in a boat before they launched their dreaded attack in Mumbai in Novermber, 2008, took place during the midnight of Dec 31 and Jan 1 when the Coast Guard spotted the vessel about 8 km inside the Indian waters on the maritime boundary with Pakistan.
An intelligence-based midnight operation was conducted by the Coast Guard ships and aircraft to intercept the suspect fishing boat, approximately 365 km off Porbander in Gujarat, on the intervening night of December 31 and January 1 after a hot pursuit.
There was information that the fishing boat from Keti Bunder near Karachi was planning some illicit transaction in Arabian Sea, a statement by the Defence Ministry said today.
Based on the information, a Coast Guard Dornier aircraft undertook sea-air coordinated search and located the suspect fishing boat.
Thereafter, the Coast Guard ship on patrol in the area was diverted and intercepted the unlit boat at about midnight of December 31 in a position 365 km west-south west off Porbandar.
The Coast Guard ship warned the fishing boat to stop for further investigation of the crew and cargo. However, the boat raised its speed and tried to escape from the Indian side of the maritime boundary.
The hot pursuit continued for nearly one hour and the Coast Guard ship managed to stop the fishing boat after firing warning shots.
Four persons were seen on the boat who disregarded all warnings by the Coast Guard ship to stop and cooperate with investigation, the statement said.
Soon thereafter, the crew hid themselves in the deck compartment below and set the boat on fire, which resulted in an explosion and major fire on the boat, it said.
Due to darkness, bad weather and strong winds, the boat and persons on board could not be saved or recovered. The boat burnt and sank in the same position, in the early hours of January one.
Ten terrorists involved in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack had reached Mumbai in a boat from Karachi in Pakistan. The attack had left 166 people dead.
Coast Guard ships and aircraft are continuing operations in the area to search for any possible survivor, the statement said.
The Coast Guard and other security agencies were maintaining high vigil in the maritime and coastal areas in the last couple of months due to several inputs on threat from the sea.