The Indian Navy has foiled two hijackings by Somali pirates within days, rescuing 19 crew in the latest incident off the Horn of Africa.
The Indian Navy on Tuesday said it rescued the fishing vessel Al Naeemi and her crew (19 Pakistani nationals) from 11 Somali pirates after the Iranian-flagged fishing vessel was boarded and her crew taken hostage.
The Saryu-class patrol vessel INS Sumitra intercepted the fishing vessel on 29 January and “through coercive posturing and effective deployment of her integral helicopter and boats, compelled the safe release of the crew and the vessel.”
The day before, the INS Sumitra was again in action off the Somali coast when she responded to a distress message regarding the hijacking of the Iranian flagged fishing vessel Iman, which had been boarded by pirates and the crew taken as hostages.
The Indian Navy said INS Sumitra intercepted the vessel and coerced the pirates to safely release the 17 crew along with the boat. “The fishing vessel was subsequently sanitised and released for onward transit.”
“This rescue of hijacked vessels, through swift, persistent and relentless efforts by a mission deployed Indian Navy warship in the Southern Arabian Sea approximately 850 nautical miles West of Kochi, also prevents misuse of fishing vessels as mother ships for further acts of piracy on merchant vessels,” the Indian Navy said, adding its efforts symbolise the Indian Navy’s resolve towards safety of all vessels and seafarers at sea.
The Indian Navy rescued another vessel from pirates earlier in the month – 21 crew were evacuated from the MV Lila Norfolk in the North Arabian Sea a day after it was boarded by half a dozen armed men off Somalia’s coast on 4 January.
Meanwhile, on 29 January the Seychelles’ government said its defence forces and coast guard had rescued six Sri Lankan fishermen whose vessel had been hijacked by Somali pirates. The fishing trawler Lorenzo Putha-4 was seized along with its six-man crew on Saturday 27 January, about 840 nautical miles southeast of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.
“Seychellois special military forces boarded the boat with utmost courage to take complete control of the vessel and rescue our Sri Lankan brothers,” the Seychelles presidency said in a statement. The six crew were reported safe and three pirates detained.
The hijackings off Somalia have raised concerns about a resurgence of Indian Ocean piracy by opportunistic pirates taking advantage of naval forces focussing on defeating attacks on shipping by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
Houthi attacks in the Gulf of Aden continue at an almost daily basis, with the latest incident occurring on 27 January when the Bermuda-owned MV Marlin Luanda was hit by a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). The vessel is transporting a cargo of highly flammable Naphtha, which caught fire after the strike. Swift response by the US Navy, French Navy and Indian Navy saw the fire extinguished and the vessel resume its course.
Other recent Houthi attacks on shipping have targeted the M/V Chem Ranger (on 18 January – targeted but not hit), the M/V Genco Picardy (hit and damaged on 17 January) and the M/V Zografia (hit and damaged on 16 January).
These actions have seen the US and its allies respond with over a dozen strikes in the last week against Houthi targets (including missile launcher sites, radars and storage sites) in Yemen.