The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) was tipped off on December 14 about a planned terror attack by sea from Pakistan by men who had undergone six months of marine commando training, intelligence sources told HT on Monday.
The sources said that the NTRO also managed to pick up a satellite phone conversation on December 30 that suggested that a boat was on its way to the Indian coast.
The defence ministry disclosed last week that a Pakistani fishing trawler with a suspicious cargo blew itself up on January 1 off Gujarat after being pursued by the Indian coast guard.
The incident was eerily reminiscent of the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists who used a fishing vessel to land in the Indian financial capital, and defence minister Mahohar Parrikar said on Monday that circumstantial evidence pointed to the trawler’s occupants being suspected terrorists as well.
According to security sources, the December 14 input came by gleaning cyber traffic and it suggested that a 2008-like operation was being planned by men trained as marine commandos.
“The NTRO input was ‘unofficially’ shared with the officials in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and officials in Gujarat who are responsible for cyber tracking,” said an intelligence official.
But the December 30 satellite phone intercepts were not shared with all stakeholders agencies through the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), a move which would have brought agencies including the IB, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and National Security Guard on to the same page. The NSG is equipped to deal with a commando-style attack.
The official said that the Indian operation to neutralise the boat appeared to have not gone to plan, and that there were many unanswered questions.
“Suppose the occupants of the boat were terrorists and as per the initial NTRO input had trained as marine commandos, should we believe that they also went to bottom of the sea along with boat? Or did they manage to escape?” he said, adding that it may have been more prudent to keep the boat under surveillance for a while to find out its intentions and then name and shame Pakistan with evidence.