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Plan in place to free sailors from Somalian pirates

Thirty-two sailors including 21 Indians have been held hostage on a ship since Feb 26, writes Sutirtho Patranobis.

india Updated: Mar 10, 2006 10:11 IST

Negotiations having failed so far, the Indian Navy is ready with a contingency plan to rescue the 21 Indian and 11 other sailors held hostage on a cargo ship by Somalian sea pirates since late last month. Only sketchy details are known about the February 26 hijack. The fate of the Indians is also unclear.

It seems around 10 armed pirates forced their way on to the Bhaktisagar while it was passing Haradare, north-east of Mogadishu, the Somalian capital. After taking the sailors hostage, the pirates dropped anchor off the coast near Haradare. A $3,00,000 ransom demand has allegedly been made.

The navy was informed about the incident earlier this week. "We've been told that negotiations are currently on among the ship's Dubai-based agent, the Indian High Commissioner in Kenya and the hijackers," said a naval officer. "If we're asked to act, we will."

A navy ship will take two days to reach Haradare. "There is a laid down procedure to carry out such an operation," said the officer. "It's called VBSS (visit, board, search and seizure). We'll also need a green signal from Somalian authorities because it's not exactly a piracy on the high seas. The incident took place within the territorial waters of Somalia."

Two ships can be dispatched and can be parked at a distance away from the hijacked ship. "That itself could soften the pirates," said the navy officer. "After that, it's a game of psychology."

A small cargo ship, Bhaktisagar is registered in Porbandar, Gujarat. It was largely carrying rice and offloading its cargo at various ports in the Middle East.

First Published: Mar 10, 2006 01:50 IST