December 1, 2008 10:13:23 am
Sifting through the evidence left on board the Kuber, the Indian fishing trawler said to be hijacked by terrorists who took the sea route to attack Mumbai, Central and state agencies are following three leads in the investigation: the possibility of there being more than the 10 gunmen accounted for; coordinates for Diu set on the trawler’s Global Positioning System and the Pak origin of several items found on board.
Officials so far have said that nine terrorists were killed — four in the Taj, two each in Oberoi and the Nariman House and one in Girgaum — and one was captured alive. So what has perplexed investigators is the presence of over 15 blankets and the same number of “winter jackets” and toothbrushes on board Kuber. These jackets, sources said, are not the ones used by “regular fishermen.”
They have also found two engine covers and a second raft case on the trawler. This points to the possible presence of another raft that may have been used. Incidentally, eight winter jackets — besides the ones on Kuber — were found in the raft that the 10 terrorists are suspected to have used to enter the city.
Several items on board have clear Pakistani labels:
• An empty diesel can of a petrol-filling station with a head-office address in Karachi
• Several shirts, T-shirts and trousers have “fake foreign branding” but there are “specific clothing items” with names of tailors in Pakistan.
• Toilet paper packet of Zik brothers, Karachi
• Packet of wheat flour from a Karachi shop, two detergent boxes manufactured in Pakistan.
• Touchme shaving cream made in Pakistan
• Dental gel, Medicam, also made in Pakistan
• Nestle milk packet with marking of Nestle Pakistan Limited.
• Namaaz cap from a shop with the phone code of Multan
• A few packets of a fairness cream shipped from Dubai
• Metal plate with picture of a gun with instructions in Urdu; three handcuffs with steel chains
Coast Guard officials say the GPS found on Kuber confirmed four waypoints-route maps that point to Karachi, Porbander, Diu and the Mumbai coast. The Diu angle needs to be probed, sources said, to explore whether some persons were offloaded there before the trawler reached Mumbai or “halted to escape vigil.”
Investigators are zeroing in on the 14 days after Kuber left Porbander with 2000 litres of diesel on November 13 and before it was found by the Coast Guard on November 27 to track its sea route. The distance between Karachi and the Mumbai coast is 569 nautical miles which can be covered in four days.
Kuber was first tracked down after Azam Ameer Qasab, the lone terrorist arrested alive by the Mumbai police, told interrogators that a trawler with a Porbander registration was used. Immediately, a Dornier and a Chetak were flown out. It was the Chetak which found Kuber with the body of Amarsinh Solanki, the skipper of the trawler, on board. The trawler was owned by Vinod Masani.
Solanki, incidentally, was intercepted by Pakistan authorities on January 25, 2002 and was also taken into custody.
Kuber had first gone fishing on October 30 and returned to Porbander on November 13 at around 2 pm with over 1000 kg of fish. What followed, Coast Guard officials said, was unusual. “Any fisherman after such a long haul and such a good catch takes a break of at least 24 hours but Solanki left for the high seas again with four other fishermen on the same day,” said an official.
When the trawler was tracked down on November 27 — 14 days after it had left Porbander — it had a mere 50 kg of fish. “This was suspicious. We also did not find any food usually used on the high seas. There were a few kilograms of apples,” said the official.
Custom records show the trawler sailed with five people including Solanki from Una. The others were Dhiru Arjun from Una, Balwant Prabhu from Navsari, Natu Nanu from Navsari and Ramesh Nagaji from Junagadh. All are believed to have been killed and local police and eyewitnesses have reported seeing four bodies.
Kasab is said to have told interrogators that the Pakistani mother ship Al Husseini picked up four of Kuber’s crew and left Solanki onboard Kuber. According to Kasab, someone from the mother ship called one of the terrorists on board Kuber to say, “Hum yahan yeh chaaron ko khana de rahe. Tum kya kar rahe ho?” (feeding as a euphemism for killing) to which the terrorist replied: “Hum ise abhi khana dene ja rahe hain.”
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