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Arms take a new route

Calcutta, May 18: Two consignments of firearms travelled from Bangladesh to West Bengal in the past week, continuing a pattern reported in The Telegraph last year.

The new element in the shipments — before sunrise on May 11 and on the night of May 15 — is the landing point at Khejuri in East Midnapore. For the first time, the district has been associated with such smuggling.

The route traversed the entire stretch of sea skirting South 24-Parganas before reaching East Midnapore.

On Sunday, more than 48 hours after the last consignment arrived, home ministry officials stationed here said they had “reports of increased cross-border activity over the last fortnight”. They admitted that tip-offs had reached Calcutta but none of the two was intercepted.

“What is especially worrying is the terror-exporter’s enhanced reach,” one of them said. “East Midnapore was not perceived to be a receptacle of arms pushed here on Inter-Services Intelligence directives,” he explained, adding that intelligence agencies would now have to treat that district the same as North and South 24-Parganas.

The first consignment landed near a place called Kadaribandh Chak at Khejuri before daybreak. Three persons got off a Bangladeshi trawler on to an Indian mechanised boat with four boxes of explosives and firearms about 30 nautical miles south-southeast of Jambudweep. The Indian boat started from that spot and reached Khejuri. Local contacts of intelligence agencies said the cache was “particularly heavy”.

The second, arriving about 90 hours later, comprised only one case but also had three carriers who made the cross-over from a Bangladeshi vessel to an Indian mechanised boat much closer to Jambudweep.

Both consignments, according to information available here, originated from the hilly areas of Chittagong.

Officials are more worried about the second because the cross-over occurred in the vicinity of Jambudweep on an evening that was reasonably lit up by the moon. The fact that the smugglers were not afraid of being spotted by Indian fishermen on Jambudweep could be “an ominous sign that India cannot overlook”, sources said.

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