Aground drug boat was passing through Maldives, police say

The Iranian vessel carrying a large amount of illegal narcotics was passing through Maldives waters when it ran aground, police said denying that the drugs were brought in for the country.

The crew set fire and jumped overboard in a bid to escape after their boat ran aground on the Innafinolhu reef in Haa Alif Atoll early Thursday.

Speaking during a joint police and coastguard press briefing, police spokesperson Ahmed Shifan allayed concerns that the boat's final destination was Maldives. Shifan explained that the channel where the boat ran aground is notorious for smuggling and the estimated quantity of drugs on the vessel would make it unlikely that it was supplying to the Maldives.

Large packets containing drugs have been washing up on nearby islands and police confirmed that the total was at 115kg thus far. Shifan said boat had been severely damaged while the cargo it had been carrying has largely been destroyed in the fire making it difficult to determine how much drugs the vessel had been transporting.

"The fire had destroyed almost all cargo. So it's difficult to know how much drugs was inside the boat. We're now looking into the whole thing. To find out exactly where they were taking the drugs. Whether there are any connection to locals," Shifan explained.

Police have also identified the crew of the boat saying that seven Iranians and one Pakistani remains in custody. Shifan said the entire crew had tested positive for various illegal narcotics while one had been treated for burn injuries.

Coastguard principal director Mohamed Saleem admitted that the radar system set up in the area had been damaged by lightening which he said was one of the reasons why the vessel had been undetected until it ran aground.

Saleem however, quickly said it has always been a challenge to monitor such a large area by sea noting successful joint operations conducted with India and Sri Lanka to stop such smugglers and pirates.

Shifan also eased public concerns that police officers along with council officials would be monitoring the beaches of the inhabited islands in the area for any more drugs that could wash up in the next few days.