Navy thwarts pirates

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Delhi
  • Published 30.05.09
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New Delhi, May 29: An Indian warship thwarted a piracy attempt near the Gulf of Aden yesterday after commandos from its helicopter intercepted eight gun-wielding men trying to board a cargo vessel from a skiff, a senior navy officer said here today.

An Indian Navy spokesperson said this could be the first instance of pirates being thwarted when they were in the process of boarding a merchant ship.

Last November, another Indian warship, the INS Tabar, sank a pirate “mother vessel”, a Thai trawler that was hijacked. But that action was contested by the vessel’s Thai owner.

Two of the pirates were missing at sea in yesterday’s action and six were picked up by a patrol in the waters off Somalia where many countries, including India, have been engaged in anti-piracy missions.

The INS Talwar frigate was escorting the MV Maud, a Liberia-registered cargo ship with a Norwegian owner and an Indian crew, and two other merchant vessels, Southern Independence and Arames, along the north of the Horn of Africa.

The Maud sent a distress call around 12.50 in the afternoon. Its Indian captain reported sighting a skiff with eight armed men approaching the vessel at great speed.

The distress call was picked up by the INS Talwar, which advised the Maud to increase speed and execute a sharp right turn in an evasive manoeuvre to avoid getting boarded, the navy officer said.

The INS Talwar’s on-board Sea King helicopter also took off at top speed with marine commandos.

When the helicopter took position, the commandos sighted two men from the skiff attempting to board the vessel from the bow.

A haze was moving in from the Red Sea and visibility was poor. It is possible the pirates had not sighted the Indian warship and the helicopter, the officer said. The commandos fired warning shots to deter the pirates.

“The pirates were then observed to disengage from the merchant ship and two of them who were in the process of climbing the vessel fell into the water. A boarding party from the warship, thereafter, boarded the skiff and confiscated various weapons as well as equipment used by the pirates,” the officer said.

Among the weapons found on board the skiff were Katysusha rockets — the kind used by the Hezbollah in Lebanon in the wars against Israel — AK-47 rifles, rocket launchers and 9mm pistols.

The INS Talwar continued with its escort mission after the incident.