NEW DELHI: The crew of an alleged Pakistani fishing boat blew up and sank their vessel after trying to evade capture at the hands of the Indian navy in a high-speed chase at sea, officials said Friday.
All four people on board the vessel from Keti Bunder, near Karachi are believed to have been killed in the dramatic episode in the Arabian Sea on New Year's Eve, India's defence ministry claims.
Although the defence ministry would only say that the crew were planning “some illicit transaction”, it also stated that the boat was carrying explosives.
Indian media has played up the event, alleging that a terror threat was imminent from what Times of India has termed the "Pak Terror Boat".
However, links to terrorism have not been established or claimed.
Ajay Kumar Pandey, a spokesman for the Indian Coast Guard, declined to comment when asked whether the explosives believed to be on board the fishing boat, which sank, were intended for use in a possible attack.
The incident has evoked memories of the 2008 Mumbai attacks when Pakistan-based militants managed to sneak into India's financial capital by sea and then began a 60-hour siege of India's economic capital that left 166 people dead. India reacted furiously last month to a Pakistani court's decision to grant bail to the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, although he has since been detained again.
Indian Coast Guard ships and aircraft tried to intercept the boat near the maritime border with Pakistan, around 365 kilometres from the coastal state of Gujarat, following an intelligence tip-off.
“However, the boat increased speed and tried to escape away from the Indian side of maritime boundary. The hot pursuit continued for nearly one hour,” a defence ministry statement added.
Although the boat did eventually stop after warning shots were fired, the four-man crew then allegedly hid themselves below deck before setting the boat on fire which triggered a large explosion.
“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 early hours of January 1,” said the statement.