The Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guards caught 16 Somali pirates in a joint operation of the coast off the Lakshadweep Islands on Sunday.
The officials rescued 16 fishermen — 12 Iranians and four Pakistanis — from the pirates. The navy and the coast guard have been maintaining surveillance of the Lakshadweep islands for several months as part of their Operation Island Watch that has seen 120 pirates being apprehended.
On Saturday, the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre of the Indian Coast Guards received inputs from a merchant ship, MV Maersk Kensington, of a foiled piracy attack where the vessel managed to stop the pirates from boarding the ship.
Captain Manohar Nambiar, chief defence spokesperson (Western Naval Command) said, “A maritime reconnaissance aircraft — TU 142 — on patrol located the suspected pirate vessel and facilitated homing INS Suvarna, which was on patrol in the area, to intercept the pirate vessel.” Coast guard vessel, ICGS Sangram, which was already on anti-piracy deployment in the general area, was asked to track the pirate vessel down.
INS Suvarna and ICGS Sangram identified the vessel as Morteza, an Iranian trawler, hijacked by the pirates and being used as a mother vessel for other piracy operations.
Attempts by INS Suvarna asking Morteza to stop went unheeded. Instead, the pirate vessel Morteza opened fire on the naval ship. INS Suvarna engaged the pirate vessel in self-defence which resulted in a fire on board Morteza. The pirates were seen jumping into the sea. INS Suvarnal launched a life raft and apprehended the pirates. The pirates were handed over to the Yellow Gate police station.