The firearms and drugs seized mid-sea from a Pakistani boat off the Gujarat coast were supposed to land on the coast between Salaya and Okha towns, state DGP Ashish Bhatia said on Tuesday. He said the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) will probe who are the intended receivers of the seized items and their ultimate destination.
As per the preliminary investigation, the contrabands were sent by a Pakistan-based drug mafia, identified as Haji Salim Baloch, the Director General of Police (DGP) said. A Pakistani boat with 10 crew members carrying arms, ammunition, and 40 kg of narcotics worth Rs 300 crore was intercepted off the Gujarat coast in the early hours of Monday by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) on specific inputs shared by the state Anti-Terrorist Squad, the ICG had said.
“The Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) will carry out a probe regarding the persons who were supposed to receive heroin worth Rs 300 crore and the firearms which were seized mid-sea and where they were supposed to be taken after landing on Gujarat coast, besides a Pakistani smuggler who is behind this (cartel),” Bhatia told reporters.
The seized drugs and firearms were to land between Salaya and Okha on the Gujarat coast, he said, adding the drugs were supposed to be delivered to an unidentified person in India using the Gujarat coast. Salaya and Okha are coastal towns located in Devbhumi Dwarka district. “The drugs and firearms were to be landed between Salaya and Okha on the Gujarat coast and from there they were to be handed over to the receiver. The ATS will carry out the investigation regarding the receiver and in which direction the contraband was to be carried and also regarding the smuggler behind it, who is identified as Haji Salim Baloch,” he said.
Around 40 kg of heroin worth nearly Rs 300 crore was found hidden in two gas cylinders in the seized boat ‘Al Soheli’. Six semi-automatic Italian pistols, 12 magazines and 120 cartridges were found hidden in the third cylinder. Bhatia said a joint team of ATS and ICG faced a challenging situation while successfully carrying out the operation mid-sea near the IMBL (International Maritime Boundary Line). The top police officer said the planning to successfully execute the operation was going on for days.
“Such transactions are made near the IMBL and reaching it is risky. One has to remain in the sea for a long. The ICG designed the operation, and based on the information, the team went nearly 140 nautical miles into the sea. They had to even return once. The operation went on for six days in the sea,” he said. The boat ‘Al Soheli’ transporting the contraband and arms had set sails from Gwadar port in Balochistan near Karachi, he said. Bhatia said ten Pakistani nationals held from the seized boat hailed from Balochistan (province).
“A narcotics cartel and underground mafia are behind the smuggling of heroin and illegal weapons through sea route and all such attempts are being foiled by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS),” the ATS said in a release. This is the first operation of its kind after a very long time wherein illegal weapons being smuggled along with narcotics were seized by the ICG and ATS. This is also the first operation after nearly three decades when firearms were seized before landing. “Such an operation is only possible through inter-agency coordination,” he said.
Bhatia said the ATS seized drugs, including heroin and mephedrone worth Rs 4,374 crore, in 2022, nearly three times more compared to 2021. At 63, the number of persons arrested in drug seizure cases in 2022 was nearly double compared to 2021 when 36 people were arrested, the DGP said, adding the arrested persons included 38 Pakistanis and four Afghans.
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