A traditional wooden ship with Indian crew sailing from the United Arab Emirates toward Bahrain was the target of the first act of sea piracy reported in Persian Gulf waters in years, according to details of the attack that emerged on Sunday.
The Bahraini dhow was intercepted on Friday night by another ship with an armed crew, security sources said.
The four pirates threatened the six-man Indian crew with guns and assaulted them before taking their cargo of fish and mobile phones, sources said. The crew members said they believed the pirates were Iranian, but their nationality could not be positively confirmed.
The Indian sailors were unharmed. They were released and arrived in a Bahraini port on Sunday.
The case represents the first time an act of piracy has been reported inside the Gulf since the issue of piracy again came to the forefront of international attention off the Somali coast in recent years.
In recent months Somali pirates had expanded their operations beyond the Somali coast line and the Gulf of Aden reaching areas as far as the east coast of Oman and the Arabian Sea.
According to figures from the London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB), piracy attacks around the world more than doubled inthe first six months of 2009 with 240 cases being reported, up from 114 in the same period last year.
The IMB attributed the rise in piracy mainly to attacks off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, southern Red Sea, east coast of Oman and Arabian Sea, where 148 out the 240 piracy attacks took place.
In July the Bahrain-based US Navy 5th Fleet Command warned against increased pirate activity off the Somali coast when the monsoon season ends.
The fleet had established a combined task force in January to conduct counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and Somalia basin.
NATO and European Union forces are also working in the area to combat piracy. Russia, China, and India also sent warships to the area to help protect and convoy vessels flying their flags.