In a massive three-hour operation conducted in the early hours of Saturday, the Anti Narcotics Cell of the Mumbai Police Crime Branch arrested nine Nigerian nationals in connection with the attack on an ANC team earlier this month.

On the night of July 19, a group of alleged Nigerian drug peddlers pelted stones at a team from the Worli unit of the ANC when the team tried to arrest them near the railway tracks near Byculla railway station. Assistant police inspector Amar Marathe had sustained serious injuries to his head.

According to ANC officials, the operation was planned after several days of intelligence gathering on the movements of the accused. The ANC found out that the accused came to the railway tracks every night to sell drugs and left in the morning. Inputs from informants also indicated that the accused had stopped coming by train after July 19 incident, and were taking the Eastern Freeway instead.

“Trying to nab them near the railway tracks was not an option, as it would be like walking into an ambush. The accused would have had access to stones from the tracks and the cover of darkness would also work in their favour. Hence, we decided to intercept them before they reached their usual business spot,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (ANC) Shivdeep Lande said.

Three-hour operation

Around midnight, a team of 70 to 80 ANC personnel from all five units of the agency stationed themselves all along the Eastern Freeway, and under it.Vehicles were stopped at random and searched and all the personnel were in constant touch with each other, relaying updates.

Between 2 a.m. to 3 a.m., the ANC teams intercepted two private vehicles moving towards Wadi Bunder, one carrying four Nigerian nationals and the other with five. A short scuffle ensued while intercepting the second vehicle, during which four personnel sustained minor injuries. But the police ultimately subdued all nine Nigerians, who were then taken to the ANC headquarters in Cuffe Parade.

“The accused were found to be in possession of 104 grams of cocaine worth Rs. 5.20 lakh and nine grams of mephedrone worth Rs. 18,000, which they were carrying in plastic bags, along with two knives. None of the accused have their passports,” Mr. Lande said.

Officials said it is a common practice among Nigerian nationals who come to India to join the drug trade to destroy their passports as soon as they enter the country. In case they are arrested, establishing their nationality becomes challenging, which in turn makes deportation impossible.

The accused have been charged with assaulting a public servant with the intent to deter him from discharging his duty under the Indian Penal Code and sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, along with the Indian Passport Act, officers said.

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