Indian Navy captures 16 pirates, rescues kidnapped crew


In yet another success against pirates, the Indian Navy seized a pirate mother ship on Saturday, capturing 16 pirates and freeing 16 crewmembers being held hostage.

The operation began after the Indian Navy received reports, via the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, of attempted attacks around 350 nautical miles west of India’s Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea. On March 23 and 26 the merchant ships MSC Eva and MV Kensington were unsuccessfully attacked by pirates. Navy and Coast Guard ships and a Tupolev Tu-142 maritime patrol aircraft were sent to investigate.

The Tu-142 discovered the Iranian trawler Morteza, which was being used as a mother ship with skiffs in tow. The INS Suvarna patrol craft and the Coast Guard ship Sangram were sent after the vessel. Suvarna warned the vessel to stop, but the pirates fired at the ship and tried to escape, an Indian Navy spokesman said yesterday.

INS Suvarna fired back at the pirates, igniting some of the fuel barrels carried on deck and causing some of the people on board to abandon ship. A total of 32 people were picked up, including 12 Iranian and four Pakistani crewmembers. The whole operation lasted three hours.

The freed crew and pirates are being brought to Mumbai by the Suvarna and are expected to reach land tomorrow, where they will be handed over to the Yellow Gate police, the DNA news agency reports.

The mission is yet another success for the Indian Navy, which has captured more than a hundred pirates over the last few months. On March 19 the Navy captured 61 pirates and rescued 13 crew members after a brief firefight in the Arabian Sea. In February India captured 28 Somali pirates and in January arrested another 12 Somalis as well as two Ethiopians and a Kenyan pirate.

Since October 2008 India has deployed its Navy to protect shipping in the Gulf of Aden and escorted 1 500 merchant ships in the area. It has maintained surveillance off the Lakshadweep islands for several months as part of Operation Island Watch.

Piracy is on the rise off India’s coast as Somali pirates move further east to avoid the international maritime anti-piracy task force. Pirates are holding around 30 ships and more than 660 hostages. Approximately 53 Indian nationals aboard five vessels are being held by Somali pirates.