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Indian Navy arrests 23 pirates

The Indian Navy today foiled a hijack attempt in the notorious Gulf of Aden and arrested 23 heavily armed Somalian and Yemeni pirates, reports Rahul Singh.

world Updated: Jan 12, 2009 18:07 IST
Rahul Singh

The Indian Navy on Saturday foiled a hijack attempt in the notorious Gulf of Aden and arrested 23 heavily armed Somalian and Yemeni pirates.

Within minutes of receiving a distress call from an Ethiopian vessel, MV Gibe, INS Mysore, a Delhi-class destroyer, launched an armed helicopter with marine commandos onboard to stop the pirates from boarding and hijacking the vessel. The skipper of the Ethiopian vessel, sailing 150 nautical miles west of Aden, radioed a message at around 11 am (IST) saying that pirates had brought his ship under heavy fire.

The Mysore, which replaced stealth frigate INS Tabar in November-end, immediately launched a helicopter and began closing in on the vessel. Upon sighting the chopper, the pirates abandoned their plans to hijack the vessel.

Instead, navy sources said, they tied their skiffs (speedboats) to the mother vessel and pretended to be fishermen.

The mother vessel, a 10-metre craft called Salahaddin, had some catch stocked in it to give the impression that it was a fishing vessel. The Mysore intercepted the mother vessel and fired ahead of it to prevent the pirates from getting away. Sources said the marine commandos had sighted pirates carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic weapons. As Mysore engaged the pirates, the commandos boarded the Salahaddin and arrested the pirates, who decided not to hold out as they were no match for the Indian warship.

The navy recovered seven AK-47 assault rifles, RPG launchers, three speedboats, grenades and other ammunition. The pirates were taken onboard and would be handed over to authorities in Djibouti.

It was in November that the government authorized the navy to undertake “hot pursuit” of pirates in the territorial waters of Somalia, which descended into anarchy in 1991. A country’s territorial waters extend to 12 nautical miles from shore.

The navy has been carrying out anti-piracy patrols in the international waters off the Gulf of Aden since October 23 to “protect Indian sea-borne trade, instill confidence in the seafaring community and act as a deterrent for pirates.” “Hot pursuit” empowers the navy to temporarily violate the maritime border of Somalia to pursue pirates.

This marks the fourth success of the navy against pirates after it launched anti-piracy patrols. On November 19, Tabar sank a Somalian pirate vessel after being threatened with disastrous consequences. A few days before that, the same warship foiled two hijack attempts in the Gulf of Aden --- the world’s most dangerous waters for commercial shipping. It rescued an Indian flagship and a Saudi Arabian merchant vessel.