A distress call by a merchant vessel which sought help against an “armed” intruder turned out to be a damp squib even as the Indian Navy sent in elite marine commandos to face a “terror” strike.
The police said MV Cornell, a Turkish vessel, which was stationed in the inner anchorage of Mumbai Port, sent distress signals to the Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) claiming that an armed man had managed to find his way aboard the vessel and was threatening the crew members.
“The nature of the call led us to believe that it was a premeditated terror strike. The crew said the man was heavily armed. We immediately dispatched a naval helicopter to take stock of the situation after which the marine commandos were sent on board to conduct a rescue operation,” said a naval officer on the condition of anonymity.
Police officials told HT that the vessel being in the port’s inner anchorage added to the panic. “It is extremely difficult to gain access to a ship in anchorage,” said a police official on the condition of anonymity.
However, it was later discovered that the man wielding the knife was a crew member. “We later realised that the crew members had a dispute amongst themselves and the man in question began to threaten everyone out of anger,” said Quaiser Khalid, deputy commissioner of police (Port Zone).
Khalid told HT that five people from MV Cornell have been detained for questioning and will be brought to Yellow Gate police station late on Monday night.
“We don’t know the identities of the detainees since they are yet to be brought to Yellow Gate police station. The police have begun searching the vessel and recording statements of the crew members,” said Khalid.