Pakistan dismisses India’s claims on ‘terror boat’

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BNO NEWS) -- India's claims that a Pakistani fishing boat exploded in the Arabian Sea during a pursuit by the Indian Coast Guard are "baseless and preposterous," Pakistan's foreign ministry said on Tuesday, officially dismissing the reported incident that some claim never happened.

Tasnim Aslam Khan, a spokeswoman for Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, slammed the Indian government for recent accusations against Pakistan and India's involvement in deadly exchanges of fire along the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the Pakistani and Indian-administered regions of Kashmir.

"The people of Pakistan see the escalation of tension by India on the Line of Control and Working Boundary, through continuous unprovoked firing and targeting of civilians, as an attempt to distract our armed forces from its valiant mission against all terrorists," the spokeswoman said. "The baseless and preposterous Indian allegations regarding the so called 'terror boat' from Pakistan are also in the same vein."

Khan added that the Pakistani government "is opposed to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations" and emphasized that Pakistan has been "the biggest victim" of terrorism. "The people and Government of Pakistan are determined to eradicate this menace from our territory," the spokeswoman explained.

India's defense ministry had said last week that it launched an operation on Wednesday after receiving intelligence that a fishing boat from the Pakistani port of Keti Bandar was planning an "illicit transaction" in the Arabian Sea. A Coast Guard aircraft later reportedly located the vessel at sea and the suspect boat was then intercepted by a Coast Guard ship on early Thursday.

India claims the boat refused to stop, leading the Coast Guard on a nearly one-hour-long pursuit until warning shots were fired, causing the fishing boat to stop. "Four persons were seen on the boat who disregarded all warnings ... Soon thereafter, the crew hid themselves below deck and set the boat on fire, which resulted in an explosion and major fire on the boat," a defense ministry spokesman said last week.

According to India, a rescue operation was not possible due to the darkness, bad weather and strong winds. "The boat burnt and sank in the same position, in the early hours of 1st January," the spokesman added. The defense ministry also released low-quality photos showing a small boat engulfed in flames.

The explosion prompted speculation that the boat was carrying explosives to carry out a terrorist attack in India, and India's defense minister suggested that there was "circumstantial evidence" that those on board the boat could have been terrorists who were in contact with Pakistan's army.

In November 2008, ten operatives of the Pakistan-based Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba arrived in India by sea before dividing into two groups to carry out a 60-hour-long attack at two hotels and a Jewish outreach center in Mumbai, killing 166 people and injuring more than 200 others.

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