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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Headless body found on trawler terrorists used
Posted online: Nov 29, 2008 at 0023 hrs
NEW DELHI : The batch of terrorists who reached Mumbai on boats two days ago to execute the worst terror attack on India had killed and thrown off-board three members of the crew of Kuber, the Indian trawler they hijacked, and beheaded the fourth, Amarsinh Solanki, whom they let live longer to help them with navigation.

Sources have told The Indian Express that reports from Coast Guard authorities said that Solanki’s “headless body” was recovered from the 45-foot trawler about five nautical miles from the Mumbai coast during an aerial recce on the waters of Arabian Sea.

It’s also confirmed that the terrorists got off Kuber and boarded an inflatable dinghy — Gemini craft — which they used to land on Mumbai’s shore. Sources said that one of the terrorists caught is said to have admitted that Kuber had only one Gemini craft on board. “Eight terrorists boarded the craft to reach the shore on Wednesday,” a source said.

A Gemini craft is ideal for short-distance travel in the sea but not for long hauls. Interestingly, the serial number on a brand new Yamaha Out Board Motor (OBM) engine on the craft — now with the Mumbai police — had been obliterated. “They even removed the manufacturers’ stickers on it,” the source said, underlining once again the level of planning that preceded the attack.

Sources said only about four litres of fuel was found to have been used in Gemini craft’s 20-litre tank. “So we are working on the probability that a mother ship dropped the terrorists into a couple of Indian fishing boats (including Kuber) to avoid detection in Indian waters. Once they reached close to the alighting point, they lowered themselves into smaller crafts they had with them, splitting into groups for the attacks,” the source said.

The Coast Guard and the Navy, meanwhile, have been “instructed” to look for more boats and small crafts in the area, since at least one more boat like Kuber was likely to have been put to use. “The Kuber ferried only eight of them so a second boat must have ferried the remaining,” the source said.

However, investigations are still on into the apparent contradictions surrounding the Kuber’s exact role.

The cops are looking at three crucial leads: One, Customs records say the Kuber left for the high seas from Porbandar on November 13 but locals have told the cops they saw Kuber leave the next day. Two, Kuber’s reported multiple ownership, and, three, the boat had sophisticated VHF and GPS systems on it and yet did not attempt even once to contact Indian security agencies if it was indeed hijacked.

A senior Gujarat police officer said Customs records indeed said it had left on November 13 but if as local fishermen said, it left on November 14, it could even mean that the Kuber returned discreetly to Porbandar after leaving port on November 13 — as per official records — and then went on another journey a day later.

Kuber (registration number 2302) was registered in the name of a resident of Kharvawad in Porbandar, Vinod Masani. Masani, sources added, owns five more fishing boat, including the two that had been seized by Pakistani agencies earlier for trespassing into their waters.

Masani’s brother, Hiralal, holds the power of attorney over Kuber. Hiralal, in turn, passed on the rights to a sub-contractor (name kept anonymous). It was this sub contractor who used to employ crew in Kuber, sources said.

Meanwhile, although nothing incriminating was found on MV Alpha, the ship intercepted yesterday by the Coast Guard, interrogation of the crew is still underway.

The MV Alpha is said to have a predominantly Ukrainian crew and according to reliable sources, investigators were not ruling out the possibility that the crew may have been bribed to take aboard these terrorists pretending to be smugglers who needed to be dropped off in Indian waters at a certain point on small boats. The MV Alpha is said to have left Karachi on November 26.

In which case, sources said, MV Alpha could have been the “mother ship” but this is still not established. Either way, sources said, the terrorists did receive extraordinary support from their handlers who could locate the Kuber through GPS so that the terrorists alighted in that general area on the high seas.

Having hijacked the Indian trawler, the terrorists retained one of the crew members both for navigation as well as to deal with any chance spotting by coastguard patrols. Now, the owner of the trawler Vinod Masani has been called to Mumbai for questioning and identification of the crew.

Further, sources said, other relevant details emerging from the investigations and questioning of terrorists captured alive have been shared with US FBI officials to cross check identities in Pakistan given that plot was planned and executed from Pakistani soil.

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