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Hunt for arms shipment via Bangla

Calcutta, Dec. 4: Reports of a major arms consignment reaching a Sunderbans island — via Bangladesh — late tonight sent intelligence agencies and those guarding the eastern border into a tizzy.

According to information available here, the consignment originated from Malaysia and travelled overland within Bangladesh before heading to Chhoto Mollakhali.

Chhoto Mollakhali is one among the cluster of islands under the “special focus” of intelligence agencies because of reports of “heightened movement” of Left extremist guerrillas and anti-national forces, officials said.

The tip-off comes amidst a war of words between Delhi and Dhaka with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani alleging that Bangladesh had become a fertile ground for anti-India activities.

The “confirmed reports from various sources” could help the Indian authorities buttress their rhetoric with “direct evidence”, officials explained but added that many such reports in the recent past did not end in actual seizures.

The consignment, according to senior Union home ministry officials here, came from Malaysia to Chittagong in Bangladesh, where it spent more than a day in transit on land routes. Information here suggests that it consists of three boxes.

Two of the three boxes, according to unconfirmed reports, contain assault rifles. The third is packed with explosives, probably employing plastic as the binding-and-covering material, officials said.

The consignment was re-packed — to stand the journey on waters that could turn choppy — today and loaded on a fishing trawler that left an “insignificant” Bangladesh port, the type that dots much of the coastal region, and was slated to reach Chhoto Mollakhali between 10 pm and midnight, they said.

“We are aware of the developments and we have thrown a ring around the entire belt,” BSF additional deputy inspector-general (operations) Harish Kumar said.

Chhoto Mollakhali, despite being the favoured landing point, could be discarded at the last minute, officials said. “Signs of increased activity on the part of the law-enforcing agencies could alert the miscreants,” a source said.

“They could then go farther westwards — probably Jambudweep — if they are alerted by their co-conspirators on this side of the border,” he added.

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