194 kg heroin, 6 Pak nationals arrested in mid-sea op

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) on Tuesday seized a suspected Pakistani origin fishing boat laden with 194 packets, suspected to be heroin, off Jakhau (Kutch) coast following an anti-smuggling operation in the International Maritime Border.

The six crew members of the boat, all reported to be Pakistani nationals, have been arrested from the boat. This is the third incident in the past one year in which huge consignment of heroin has been busted.

ICG officials said that it had received specific information from National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) two days back and also from Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) about a fishing boat carrying heavy narcotics substance. 

"This boat was waiting for a receiver to deliver the consignment in the International Maritime Border," officials said. They said that immediately after receiving information on May 20, two high-speed boats and one aircraft were brought in search of the fishing boat identified as Karachi registered "Al-Madina." 

The officials didn't divulge information about the receiver and supplier of the consignment, saying that the crew members are being interrogated for this information. 

During the operation, while the Coast Guard's speed boats were chasing the Pakistani boat, its crew members started throwing the bags of contraband into the sea. The team of ICG apprehended the crew members and retrieved seven bags from the water. The officials said that in the operation they seized a total of 194 packets of suspected heroin, each weighing 1 kg. Sources said that Gujarat police too had tip-off about this information. 

They said that this is the biggest consignment caught in recent time in deep-sea operation. Sources said that the contraband was to be handed over to a Gujarat-based receiver who has been under the surveillance of local police.

As a matter of fact, this is the second such operation in the last three months. Earlier on March 27, Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and ICG had seized 100 kg heroin off Porbandar coast. ATS had arrested an Afghan national identified as Niyamat Khan Ahmedzai and Kerala resident Mohammed Abdul Salaam Kunni. They were alleged to have been supplying the drugs to various parts of the country. And eventually, smuggle them outside India using airports and ports.

According to security agency officers, "Pakistan and Afghanistan-based drug cartels are using Gujarat as a transit point to smuggle narcotics in India and then abroad following security alert at the line of control in Punjab. Since the cross-border trade has almost stopped due to the heightened security alert, the cartel is finding it tough to use the conventional route of Punjab.

This cartel seems desperate to smuggle due to bumper opium harvest in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And that's the reason, why they are repeatedly using the sea route despite being caught." 

The officers added that "They have already incurred huge losses by using Gujarat sea route as we think we have busted most of their smuggling effort. We now think that they won't repeat their mistake now." 

In August last year, the ATS had busted another such assignment but days after contraband was already smuggled to receivers. ATS had arrested Aziz Abdul Bhagad, a resident of coastal town Salaya in Devbhoomi Dwarka district, with heroin worth Rs15 crore. His interrogation revealed smuggling of 100 kg contraband.

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