Exploding boat off India linked to Pakistan ‘drug mafia’

2015-01-05 09:48

New Delhi – A fishing vessel that blew up off India last week was linked to Pakistani drug smugglers, an Indian news report said today, while the defence minister maintained the crew were likely terrorists.

The boat, which was stopped on Friday, had a history of carrying contraband for a cartel based in southern Pakistan’s Balochistan province, the Indian Express newspaper reported, citing unnamed Pakistani counter-narcotics investigators.

It allegedly worked for a cartel led by Mir Yakub Bizenjo, named by the United States in 2009 as a leading player in the crossborder narcotics trade, the report said.

The mother of the alleged captain told the Indian Express she had heard about the boat’s destruction but not of her son’s death, speaking from their home near Karachi, a large Pakistani port just east of Balochistan.

In New Delhi, India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar said today it was unlikely that the crew were smugglers.

The boat fled towards Pakistani waters when it was hailed by the Coast Guard Friday.

After an hour’s pursuit and several warning shots it stopped, the crew disappeared below deck, and an explosion was followed by an extensive fire on board, the Defence Ministry said.

“I think they were suspected terrorists, as they committed suicide,” he said.

“A normal boat even carrying drugs can surrender,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a function.

The boat was under surveillance for the previous 12 hours and did not take the normal sea route, Parikkar said. “Smugglers normally take the busy route so that they can mingle with [other] boats.”

Members of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party said the Coast Guard may have foiled a major terrorist attack.

In 2008, 166 people were killed in a terrorist attack on the city of Mumbai by 10 gunmen who came by sea from Karachi.

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