Mumbai: The security agencies were sent into a tizzy after a suspicious boat was found near Harihareshwar beach in Raigad district of Maharashtra on Thursday. The police issued a high alert after recovering three AK-47 rifles and ammunition from the boat. Maharashtra deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said that prima facie there is no terror angle to it and the boat belonged to an Australian resident. However, he also clarified that the security agencies have not ruled anything out so far and are investigating all aspects.
According to the police, the boat was sailing to Europe from Muscat and had a UK flag. The boat’s engine was damaged and the sailors gave a distress call, after which a South Korean naval ship rescued them on June 26 from the Gulf of Oman. But the boat could not be towed and so it went adrift.
The 16-metre yacht was spotted by local fishermen around 8 am and they alerted the Shrivardhan police. The boat was brought to the shore with the help of locals. Raigad SP Ashok Dudhe and other senior officials rushed to the spot and searched the boat.
“Three AK-47 rifles, cartridges and the boat’s papers were found. A roadblock was put in place and a high alert call was given. The Coast Guard was also informed,” Mr Fadnavis said. The government swiftly roped in the Anti-Terrorism Squad to carry out further investigations along with the local police. The Coast Guard soon confirmed the vessel is called MY Lady Han and is owned by an Australian national, Hana Laundergun. Her husband, James Hobert, is the captain.
The Coast Guard also managed to contact the master of the boat and a security agency from Dubai, which confirmed the serial numbers of the weapons found on board match with the ones missing from their inventory. “These arms may have been used for protection of the crew, but they did not carry the weapons with them when they were rescued,” an official said.
Neptune P2P Group, the international agency providing maritime security, issued a statement confirming that it had provided security on the vessel MY Lady Han. “The yacht was damaged during the monsoon in the Arabian Sea, causing the captain to declare an emergency. While the crew was rescued, the yacht was unable to be salvaged due to the extreme weather conditions. Earlier this morning, Neptune P2P Group was made aware that the vessel, which was presumed sunk, had washed up on Indian shores. Neptune P2P Group is working with the owner of the vessel and the Indian and UK authorities to determine the official recovery procedures of the vessel and controlled items,” the firm said in the statement.
However, the Raigad police announced a red alert in the entire district and imposed nakabandi at prime locations. The ATS and police will continue investigations. “There is no terror angle to it as per the preliminary investigations. But I cannot confirm or deny it completely before a thorough investigation. It is a festive season and we will not take any chances. I have disclosed the information gathered till now so that there is no panic in people,” Mr Fadnavis said.
When asked about the weapons found on the boat, the Maharashtra deputy chief minister said: “I can confirm anything about the weapons only after investigators verify all aspects. So far, we have managed to confirm the boat’s ownership and the sequence of events. Further investigation is on.”
The discovery of the boat with weapons raised alarm bells as Mumbai had been targeted by Pakistan-based terrorists, who had entered the city by sea route, on November 26, 2008....