Update as of 7.30 a.m. EST: A boat, which is suspected to have come from Pakistan with explosives on board, was part of a "terrorist plot," according to Indian defense experts, cited by local media. According to a statement from the coast guard, released earlier Friday, the boat blew up and sank before its cargo and crew could be further investigated.
“Undoubtedly it was a terrorist plot, had they been smugglers, they would have surrendered,” Raj Kadyan, former deputy chief of army staff, told ANI, an Indian news agency. “Motivation to blow oneself up is only among terrorists.”
KR Nautiyal, a senior official of the Indian coast guard, told ANI that the four people on board the fishing vessel had ignored repeated warnings by the security forces, and had deliberately set the boat on fire.
"The crew of the boat committed suicide rather than surrendering, presumably a major tragedy has been averted," Rear Admiral Raja Menon, former assistant chief of naval staff, said, ANI reported.
A Pakistani fishing boat suspected of carrying explosives was intercepted by Indian security forces off the coast of the western Indian state of Gujarat on Wednesday night. The vessel with four people on board sank after an explosion triggered by a fire below deck, the Indian coast guard said, in a statement released Friday.
According to the coast guard, the boat, which is believed to be from the port of Keti Bandar in western Pakistan's Sindh province, was intercepted about 220 miles from the port city of Porbandar. The debris of the boat and the bodies of those on board have not been recovered so far, the coast guard said, adding that search operations are being carried out in the region to look for possible survivors.
“The Coast Guard ship warned the fishing boat to stop for further investigation of the crew and cargo; however, the boat increased speed and tried to escape away from the Indian side of maritime boundary … the Coast Guard ship managed to stop the fishing boat after firing warning shots,” the coast guard said, in the statement. “Four persons were seen on the boat who disregarded all warnings by the Coast Guard ship to stop and cooperate with investigation. Soon thereafter, the crew hid themselves in below deck compartment and set the boat on fire, which resulted in explosion and major fire on the boat.”
The press officer at the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi could not be reached and an email query sent to the Pakistan foreign office in Islamabad remained unanswered.
The latest incident is reminiscent of the events of the night of Nov. 26, 2008, when 10 people came ashore on inflatable boats from Pakistan without being intercepted by Indian intelligence agencies. Later that night, and over the following four days, these men carried out a series of coordinated attacks on high-value targets in Mumbai, the country's financial and commercial capital, killing 164 people. Over 300 people were also injured in the attacks, which ended after Indian security forces killed all but one of the attackers, Ajmal Kasab, who was caught alive. He was executed in November 2012 after a trial.
"Coast Guard and other security agencies are maintaining high vigil in maritime and coastal areas since last couple of months due to several inputs on threat from the sea," the coast guard statement added.