.Pakistan can keep rejecting. We received intelligence inputs and based on the inputs we intercepted the boat,” Coast Guard IG Kuldeep Singh Sheoran said.
The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) on Saturday refuted Pakistan’s denial about the explosives-laden fishing boat which blew itself off the coast of Gujarat along with four crew members.
However, the ICG does not seem to have recovered any piece of evidence from the debris so far to establish the identity of the vessel and the crew on board.
“The search is on. The boat did not have a name. We are looking at the debris. We are also looking for the bodies. Pakistan can keep rejecting. We received intelligence inputs and based on the inputs we intercepted the boat,” Coast Guard IG Kuldeep Singh Sheoran told The Hindu.
On Friday, the agency reported in a press release that a Pakistani fishing boat from Keti Bunder near Karachi was intercepted in the intervening night of December 31 and January 1. The suspicious boat was 10-15 kilometres inside Indian waters and about 365 km west-southwest of Porbandar in Gujarat.
The crew members disregarded the Coast Guard’s warning signals to stop and increased the speed of the boat, finally setting the vessel on fire.
The ICG said suspicions were raised about the identity of the explosives-laden boat crew as they did not resemble fishermen and did not carry nets.
ICG said they followed the standard operating procedure (SOP) while intercepting the hostile boat which, as intelligence input suggested, had set sail from the port city of Karachi from Pakistan for some “illicit transaction.”
The maritime law enforcement agency reiterated that the vessel was set on fire by its crew members, causing it to explode and later sink.
“We saw four men on the boat, they were nowhere looking like fishermen, they had worn T—shirts and half pants, and this raised suspicion on our side,” Sheoran said.
Asked if the boat occupants were terrorists, Sheoran said, “Multiple Indian intelligence agencies are jointly investigating the incident and they will go to the bottom to it.”
“We received intelligence input at around 8.30 in the morning (of Dec 31) about the suspicious boat. We dispatched our Dornier aircraft and ship in that direction and by 1 in the afternoon we had positively identified the ship,” he said.
“At around midnight our vessel ‘Rajratan’ reached near the boat and tried to stop it by following standard operation procedure. But instead of surrendering, the boat started moving in a zig—zag way and switched off lights. We chased it for about one—and—a—half—hours.
“After the hot pursuit, we fired warning shots, but the boat did not stop. We fired more warning shots. After some time, the crew of the boat set it on fire and later it sank with them (occupants),” the ICG officer said.
Regarding reports that there were two other suspicious boats in the high seas, Sheoran said they had no such information.
The ICG Commander said they have increased vigilance along the Gujarat coast after the boat incident and also in view of the two upcoming high—profile events here — Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and Vibrant Gujarat Summit.
“We are alert round—the—clock, but due to these events we are on extra alert. Our ships and aircraft are doing their job of patrolling the sea,” he added.