Somali pirates have so far launched 176 attacks on merchant vessels and have managed to hijack 22 vessels of which three have been freed, but pirates continue to hold 377 sailors as hostages, states the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
Piracy in the Indian Ocean region is of concern for India specially as interrogations of pirates, who have been caught in the past have revealed of their tacit association with outfits that have terrorists associations, said sources in the intelligence bureau (IB).
The possibility of a seaborne attack using a hijacked ship is one of the many possibilities that terrorist organisation have been working on. The Indian Navy has studied the piracy in the Indian Ocean region and has stepped up its operations of patrolling and reconnaissance in the region, particularly in the Arabian Sea. “More than 120 attempts of piracy has been foiled by the Indian Navy, and it has also escorted more than 1,600 vessels through the piracy-prone region of the Gulf of Aden,” said a Navy officer, requesting anonymity.
Intelligence shared between middle-east countries and Somalia also suggest that pirates have forged an association with Al-Shabab — terrorist organisation in Somalia under al Qaeda’s umbrella — have been training its operatives on hijacked cargo ships to drive and navigate ships in the sea, said sources in IB.
Al-Shabab’s activity has been closely followed by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which seeks to be the new umbrella body for terrorist organisations, along with terrorist outfits such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamyah in South-east Asia.
“There is a definite threat perception of terrorists using the maritime domain. The threat levels have gone up ever since we learnt that LeT had set up a marine wing to train terrorists,” said a senior IPS officer, on condition of anonymity.
Investigations of arrested LeT cadres have revealed that the entire set of LeT’s maritime wing is based in Karachi and is being operated under the leadership of Abu Yaqoob, said sources in the intelligence bureau. Abu Yaqoob has been instructed to launch LeT’s operatives in to Maharashtra and Gujarat using the sea route, added sources.
The seaborne threat which first surfaced in the early 2000, has gained renewed vigour since Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan.