NIA questions 10 Pakistan nationals to unearth Gujarat arms, drugs haul
NIA quizzed Pakistani nationals to unearth what it believes is a larger conspiracy behind the recovery of weapons and drugs off the Gujarat coast in December.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) last week questioned 10 Pakistani nationals to unearth what it believes is a larger conspiracy behind the recovery of weapons and drugs from a fishing vessel off the Gujarat coast in December last year, people familiar with the matter said.
The Balochistan-based mastermind of the operation, Haji Salim, who works with Pakistani spy agency ISI sent the consignment, containing six foreign made pistols, 120 live cartridges and 40 kgs heroin,which was intercepted by the Gujarat police and Coast Guard on December 28.
The boat, Al Soheli sailed from Poshani shore area in Balochistan for Gujarat’s Okha before it was traced, and 10 persons were taken into custody. They were identified as Kadarbaksh Umetan Baloch, Ismail Sabzal, Amanulla Mussa Baloch, Allabaksh Hatar Baloch, Goharbaksh Dilmurad Baloch, Anmal Pulan Baloch, Gulmohammad Hatir Baloch, Andamail Boher Baloch, Abdulgani Jungiyan Baloch, and Abdulhakim Dilgurad Baloch, all residents of Balochistan.
The federal anti-terror probe agency, which is investigating a link between North India based gangsters and this arms cache, last week took custody of all 10 accused and asked them about their handlers across the border, details of other such consignments brought by them to India, and Haji Salim’s syndicate.
“The weapons and drugs were sent by Haji Salim Baloch Wala from the Poshani area shore of Balochistan for delivering to Harun in sea of Gujarat, for financial gains and intending to commit terrorist activities in India and to provide funds to the terrorist gangs of Punjab and north India. The accused persons were asked about other suspects on both sides,” said one of the people cited above, a NIA office who didn’t want to be named.
As reported by HT on April 30, Haji Salim’s syndicate is behind the majority of drugs being smuggled via maritime route to not only India but also Sri Lanka, Maldives and West Asian countries. Agencies have estimated that around 70% of all the drugs trafficked to India comes through the maritime route, controlled by Salim.
Salim is believed to work closely with the ISI and a part of funds generated by him through maritime smuggling are used for the operations of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), according to an assessment by central agencies.
Salim’s cartel uses fishing boats to send Afghan drugs, labelled with inscriptions such ‘555’, ‘999’, ‘Unicorn’ and ‘Dragon’, with exchanges happening mid-sea with boats from destination countries.
Indian agencies have till date seized around 3,000 kgs of heroin, 500 kgs of methamphetamine and 600 kgs of in the Indian Ocean region sent by Salim’s cartel.
A probe by NIA last year revealed that Salim’s network supplies drugs to Sri Lanka in association with Sri Lankan drug mafia led by C Gunashekharan, alias Guna, and Pushparajah, alias Pookutti Kanna.
The anti-terror probe agency in December arrested nine Sri Lankan nationals from a special camp for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees at Tiruchirapalli for allegedly smuggling drugs and arms to revive the activities of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
A special edition of NCB’s annual report 2022, released in April, said : “The maritime drug trafficking in Arabian sea and Bay of Bengal poses new challenges to drug law enforcement agencies and they anticipate further increase of this route by international drug trafficking syndicates operating from Pakistan and Afghanistan”.
Shreya Upadhyay, a strategic affairs expert and assistant professor at Christ University, Bengaluru, said: “While land border and air route was always used to smuggle drugs or arms, this spike in Pakistan-backed syndicates using maritime route is a challenge for security agencies due to India’s vast coastline. Besides strengthening coordination, there is a need of robust intelligence on incoming boats with drugs and weapons so that they are caught in time.”
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