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Coast Guard searching ships travelling to Pak, Gulf

November 29, 2008 15:23 IST

Searching for terrorists, Indian Coast Guard ships are now stopping all merchant vessels and ships moving towards Pakistan and Gulf region and carrying out checks inside them.

"Soon after the Mumbai terror attack, our ships had started moving into the sea on a look out for the terrorists. We are now stopping every ship and boarding them to see if terrorists had moved into Mumbai by any of them," a top Coast Guard officer from its Western Region headquarters told PTI over phone on Saturday.

Asked if any ships were being detained by the Cost Guard, he said "visit, board, search and seize was an action already mandated under the Coast Guard Act. We are doing whatever tasks are assigned to us".

"We are visiting ships, boarding them and searching them. But seizing them is not happening right now, as most of these ships had clean papers on them," he added.

Earlier, officials said, they were not boarding all the ships, but since last night, they had started to visit the ships on board to carry out the searches, in view of the intelligence reports.

They said the Coast Guard team that had boarded MV Kuber on November 27 evening off the Porbandar coast in Gujarat had found the body of the ship's captain, possibly killed by the terrorists.

The information was immediately relayed to the Mumbai police and the ship handed over to them immediately, they added.

In view of revelations that the Mumbai attackers had sneaked in by the sea route, the Coast Guard had on November 27 launched a major search operation in the Arabian Sea to hunt for any suspicious ship and sanitise the maritime zone.

Most of the Coast Guard ships along with helicopters were pressed into service off the coast of Mumbai and Gujarat, an official spokesman said.

"Majority of our ships and aircraft were out to carry out search operations in the Arabian Sea and sanitise India's Exclusive Economic Zone," the spokesperson said.

EEZ of a country is the 200-km maritime region from its shores. In Indian waters, the Coast Guard has the responsibility of looking after this region.

The Coast Guard and other water manning agencies were put on an alert after intelligence agencies gave inputs about the involvement of a ship in Mumbai terror strikes and that it was trying to move out of Indian territorial waters towards Karachi in Pakistan.

Coast Guard's aerial assets are also carrying out surveillance over the zone. Its air wing has a fleet of Dorniers, ALH Dhruv and Cheetah/Chetak helicopters deployed along the western coast.

"Almost all the serviceable aircraft are flying search missions over EEZ in order to look for any suspicious movements in our zone," the spokesperson added.

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