Navy foils second hijacking bid in Arabian Sea in 24 hours | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Navy foils second hijacking bid in Arabian Sea in 24 hours

By, New Delhi
Jan 31, 2024 04:57 AM IST

The navy has stepped up surveillance in the area due to the resurgence of piracy and missile and drone attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The Indian Navy on Tuesday said that its offshore patrol vessel INS Sumitra rescued an Iranian-flagged fishing vessel (FV) hijacked by armed pirates off the Somali coast, the second such action in the last 24 hours in the Arabian Sea where the security situation has deteriorated significantly due to the resurgence of piracy and missile and drone attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Commandos stand guard with a group of detained pirates after the Indian Navy freed a hijacked fishing vessel. (AP)
Commandos stand guard with a group of detained pirates after the Indian Navy freed a hijacked fishing vessel. (AP)

FV Al Naeemi, the second Iranian-flagged vessel to be rescued by INS Sumitra, was carrying a crew of 19 Pakistani nationals.

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The Indian Navy also helped rescue a hijacked Sri Lankan fishing trawler in the Indian Ocean on January 29, in a joint operation with the Seychelles Defence Forces and Sri Lanka Navy around 955 nautical miles east of Mogadishu. This action involved INS Sharda, also an offshore patrol vessel.

READ | Indian Navy rescues Iranian vessel hijacked by pirates

“INS Sumitra, having thwarted the piracy attempt on FV Iman, carried out yet another successful anti-piracy operation off the east coast of Somalia, rescuing FV Al Naeemi and her crew of 19 Pakistani nationals from 11 Somali pirates,” the navy said in a statement.

The Indian warship had on January 28 responded to a distress call from FV Iman, intercepted it and rescued the boat and its crew of 17 Iranians from Somali pirates.

“Responding swiftly, Sumitra intercepted the vessel on January 29 evening and through coercive posturing and effective deployment of her integral helicopter and boats compelled the safe release of the crew and the vessel,” the statement said.

The two rescue missions involved the elite marine commandos. The navy also undertook confirmatory boarding to sanitise the vessel as well as check on the well-being of the crew.

READ | ‘India will not be seen as a responsible country if…’: S Jaishankar on Navy's anti-piracy ops in Arabian Sea

Somali pirates are known to hijack fishing vessels and use them as mother ships to carry out attacks on merchant ships.

“INS Sumitra, over the course of less than 36 hours (time since the first distress call from FV Iman), through swift, persistent and relentless efforts has rescued two hijacked fishing vessels along with 36 crew members in the southern Arabian Sea, approximately 850 nautical miles west of Kochi, and prevented the misuse of these fishing vessels as mother ships for further acts of piracy on merchant vessels,” the navy added.

The navy statement did not shed light on the fate of the pirates. However, in such cases, they are usually disarmed so that they pose no threat to other vessels and made to leave the area in their skiffs, officials aware of the matter said.

INS Sumitra is currently deployed along the east coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy operations.

Three pirates had boarded and hijacked the Sri Lankan fishing trawler, Lorenzo Putha 04, on January 27. The navy deployed INS Sharda from Kochi on January 28 and a Sea Guardian drone to locate and intercept the hijacked fishing vessel, the navy said in a second statement.

“Efficient operational coordination and information sharing through the Sri Lanka and Seychelles international liaison officers at IFC-IOR (Information Fusion Centre - Indian Ocean Region), New Delhi, resulted in the interception of the hijacked fishing vessel by Seychelles Coast Guard ship Topaz in Seychelles EEZ on January 29,” the navy said in another statement.

The three pirates surrendered to the Seychelles Coast Guard, the six crew members are safe, and the vessel is being escorted to Mahe, Seychelles.

Last week, guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam responded to a distress call by Marshall Islands-flagged merchant vessel Marlin Luanda, which was struck by a missile in the Gulf of Aden. Specialist firefighting crews boarded the vessel and helped douse the fire on board.

Challenges in the distant seas, including the Arabian Sea, have emerged as a new front in recent weeks, with Red Sea tensions escalating and the resurgence of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast. The navy has stepped up surveillance in the Arabian Sea substantially and deployed task groups consisting of around 10 warships in the face of rising threats.

P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft, Sea Guardian remotely piloted aircraft, Dorniers, helicopters and coast guard ships are part of the effort to strengthen security in the area.

Recent incidents have put piracy in the Arabian Sea back in the spotlight. Pirate attacks in the region peaked between 2008 and 2013 but steadily declined thereafter because of the concerted efforts of the multinational maritime task force operating in the region.

The region accounted for almost 700 pirate attacks during 2008-13, but the figure nosedived to a mere 16 during 2014-19, according to data published by the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) Operation Atalanta -- the EU maritime security operation in the western Indian Ocean. The first piracy attempt in the region in the last three years was reported in December 2023.

Tensions in and around the Red Sea have also escalated following a wave of drone and missile attacks on merchant vessels by Iran-backed Houthi rebels and trouble had spilled over into the Arabian Sea. Several ships targeted in the area had Indian crews on board or were headed to the country’s shores.

MV Marlin Launda, which was attacked last week, in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes, had a crew of 22 Indian nationals and one Bangladeshi citizen. This was the latest in a series of attacks on commercial shipping in the region.

Another Marshall Islands-flagged merchant vessel MV Genco Picardy, which was recently attacked by a drone in the Gulf of Aden, docked at the Tuticorin port in Tamil Nadu last week after the Indian Navy’s explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) specialists undertook a thorough examination of the ship and declared it safe for port entry.

INS Visakhapatnam had on January 18 responded to a distress call made by MV Genco Picardy after it was attacked. It was carrying a crew of 22, including nine Indians.

The other India-bound vessels recently attacked include MV Chem Pluto and MV Saibaba in December. The drone attack on MV Chem Pluto took place around 220 nautical miles south-west of Porbandar, while the other vessel was targeted in the southern Red Sea.

Houthi rebels have been targeting commercial shipping in the Red Sea with missiles and drones after the Israel-Hamas conflict began on October 7. Several shipping companies have suspended their operations in the Red Sea following the Houthi attacks, which has forced mariners to change course and take longer routes around the southern tip of Africa.

The attacks on commercial shipping in and around Red Sea were on January 15 the focus of discussions between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Tehran, with the Indian minister flagging concerns about the increase in threats to maritime traffic in the region including attacks in the vicinity of the Indian coast.

The growing threats to commercial shipping in the region were also discussed during talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron, who was in India for the Republic Day celebrations.

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