NCB probes terror angle in huge heroin haul at sea

In troubled waters: The Sri Lankan boat that was intercepted off the Thoothukudi Coast on November 24.  

It was a week-long operation of Indian Coast Guard vessels at sea with aerial support and the backing of Central intelligence agencies that led to the zeroing-in on a Sri Lankan mechanised boat transporting a huge consignment of heroin off the coast of Thoothukudi on Tuesday night.

The well-coordinated operation involving defence, intelligence and other drug-law enforcement agencies was launched on November 17 on the basis of a specific input that Pakistan-based smugglers would be transferring a huge consignment of drugs at sea on to a Sri Lankan boat. The security agencies were already working on information that a group of international drug peddlers were operating along the Pakistan-Sri Lankan water route transporting drugs to many countries, police sources said.

After seven days of surveillance at sea, Coast Guard personnel on board five vessels and two aircraft narrowed down on the suspicious Sri Lankan boat “Shenaya Duwa” located south of the Thoothukudi coast and 20 nautical miles off Kanniyakumari. Armed guards searched the boat and found the drugs concealed in an “unapproachable” location. The crew of six Sri Lankan nationals was in possession of 99 packets of heroin, 20 boxes of synthetic drugs, five pistols and a satellite phone set, the sources said.

Preliminary investigation revealed that the 100 kg heroin and other contraband substances were transferred from a Pakistani dhow from Karachi in the high seas. The drugs were meant to be sent to western countries and Australia, investigators said.

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) which took over investigation of the drug seizure case would look into the possibility of terrorist organisations being involved in the smuggling of drugs since the suspects were in possession of sophisticated weapons.

NCB South Zonal Director A. Bruno said the heroin appeared to be of fine quality and such drugs were usually sourced from Afghanistan. Central agencies were working on tracking the international drug network for quite some time and launched the operation after receiving actionable inputs.

The six Sri Lankan nationals were brought to Madurai for interrogation on Thursday. The smugglers said they were heading to a location near Australia and claimed to have sourced the narcotics from an agent based in Karachi on November 16, an investigator told The Hindu .

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2021 5:46:03 PM |

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