Terror alert | India

Abandoned boat with weapons off Maharashtra triggers scare

A boat with weapons was found off Raigad in Maharashtra on August 18, 2022. Photo: Special Arrangement

A boat with weapons was found off Raigad in Maharashtra on August 18, 2022. Photo: Special Arrangement

A high alert was sounded in Maharashtra after an abandoned boat containing three AK-series assault rifles and 10 boxes of live rounds was found along the Raigad coastline on Thursday morning even as the State government said there was no confirmation of a terror angle in the case. 

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis, speaking in the Assembly, said that the U.K.-registered yacht, which bore the sticker of ‘Neptune Maritime Security’ (a security firm providing armed services for shipping and oil firms) belonged to an Australian national whose husband is captain of the vessel. 

He further said that as the engine of the boat, which was making its way from Muscat to European waters, had malfunctioned and that the occupants of the boat had to be rescued by a Korean warship. 

However, owing to rough seas, the boat could not be towed and so it went adrift with the weapons on board. 

“The 16-metre-long boat was found near the waters off Harihareshwar (in Raigad’s Shrivardhan taluk). It belongs to an Australian resident and was headed to Europe from Muscat. While there is no confirmation of any terror angle and the boat appears to have just drifted here, we are not ruling out anything and are investigating all aspects,” said Mr. Fadnavis, adding that the police had been put on high alert and that the administration was constantly in touch with the Indian coast guard regarding the issue. 

Three AK-47 rifles and some bullets were found on the boat. Photo: Special Arrangement

Three AK-47 rifles and some bullets were found on the boat. Photo: Special Arrangement

The Deputy Chief Minister said that Central government investigating agencies, too, are being roped in and that the government would deploy additional police force, if needed, to ensure that the upcoming Janmashtami celebrations pass off smoothly. 

A Coast Guard official, too, dismissed concern of a security threat by informing that the boat had given a distress call while sailing from Oman to Europe and that people onboard were rescued by ships in the vicinity of Muscat on June 26. 

The arms vendor has been contacted and the serial numbers of the weapons found onboard match with the ones missing from the vendor’s inventory, the official said. 

Earlier, police officials said that multiple teams were rushed to the spot and the three AK-56 assault rifles and ten boxes containing over 200 live rounds were taken into custody. A wireless alert was sent out across the Raigad district and checkpoints were quickly set-up while security was beefed up in Mumbai and other cities. 

The presence of the suspicious boat carrying arms created panic as Mumbai city had been targeted by Pakistan-based terrorists on November 26, 2008 who had entered the city by a similar sea route, off the coastal waters of Raigad. 

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Shrivardhan MLA Aditi Tatkare had demanded Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Mr. Fadnavis to urgently appoint a special team of the ATS or any other state agency to probe the case. 

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Printable version | Aug 19, 2022 7:42:15 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/boat-with-weapons-found-off-maharashtras-raigad/article65782774.ece