New Delhi: The Indian Navy warship INS Sumitra successfully rescued fishing vessel Al Naeemi and 19 crew, all Pakistani nationals, from 11 Somali pirates, along the East Coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden on Monday. This came within 36 hours after INS Sumitra, which was deployed on anti-piracy operations, rescued another fishing vessel FV Iman with 17 crew members on board.
INS Sumitra, the indigenous offshore patrol vessel of the Indian Navy, had been deployed for anti-piracy and maritime security operations east of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. The warship responded to a distress call regarding the hijacking of FV Iman, which was boarded by pirates and crew taken as hostages, and acted by the established SOPs to coerce the pirates for the safe release of the crew along with the boat, said the Indian Navy in a statement.
The naval warship was again pressed into action to locate another Iranian-flagged fishing vessel, Al Naeemi, which was boarded by pirates and its 19 crew members taken hostage. The Navy said INS Sumitra intercepted the second vessel on Monday and compelled the safe release of the crew and the vessel through coercive posturing and effective deployment of her integral helo and boats.
The ship also undertook confirmatory boarding to sanitise and also to check on the well-being of the crew who were held captive by the Somali pirates. In a total of 36 hours, INS Sumitra rescued two hijacked fishing vessels along with 36 crew, 17 Iranian and 19 Pakistani, in the southern Arabian Sea approximately 850 nm West of Kochi.
“The Marine Commandos of the Indian Navy took part in the operation to rescue the crew of the boat safely. This was the second successful anti-piracy operation by the Indian Navy in the last 24 hours. Indian navy warships are deployed all around the Indian Ocean region to provide safety and security in the area,” said defence officials.
On the rescue of FV Iman, the Indian Navy spokesperson said, “A swift response by the Indian Navy’s mission-deployed warship ensures the safe release of the hijacked vessel and crew. INS Sumitra, on anti-piracy operations along the East coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, responded to a distress message regarding the hijacking of an Iranian-flagged Fishing Vessel (FV) Iman. The FV had been boarded by pirates, and the crew had been taken as hostages.
The Fishing Vessel was subsequently sanitised and released for onward transit, the Navy said. “The pirates have been disarmed and asked to move towards Somalia. The INS Sumitra has now moved out of the area. The ALH Dhruv choppers on board the warship had encircled the hijacked vessel to issue warnings to the pirates on board it,” said defence officials.
This came around ten days after the pirates captured at least six Sri Lankan fishermen with multi-day fishing trawler Lorenzo Putha-4 set from Dikowita fishing harbour. Although the Sri Lankan Navy did not comment on the development, a defence official on Sunday said that India has vowed to help in rescuing them. The development also came as the sea route has been facing multiple attacks by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen on cargo vessels in order to show solidarity with Palestinians killed in the Israel-Hamas war.
India’s assistance to foreign vessels
Earlier, Indian Navy’s guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam responded to a distress call from British oil tanker MV Merlin Luanda on Friday after it was struck by a missile launched by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and provided immediate assistance to the vessel carrying 22 Indians. According to the Indian Navy, INS Visakhapatnam has deployed the warship’s Nuclear Biological Chemical Defence and Damage Control (NBCD) team along with firefighting equipment to help the crew to augment the firefighting efforts onboard the distressed vessel.
The Captain of the merchant vessel thanked the Indian Navy for helping to extinguish the fire onboard the ship. He said, “The Indian navy went out of the way with its specialised team to help them”. The UK government has said Britain and its allies “reserve the right to respond appropriately” after an oil tanker was struck and set alight off coast of Yemen
Prior to that, INS Visakhapatnam responded to a drone attack by Houthis on Marshall Islands-flagged US-owned ship MV Genco Picardy, which had 22 crew members, including nine Indians, in the Gulf of Aden. INS Visakhapatnam, undertaking anti-piracy patrol in the area, intercepted the vessels on Thursday to provide assistance.
The attack on Genco Picardy happened some 70 miles (110 kilometers) southeast of Aden, where the drone smashed into the vessel, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, an arm of the British navy that oversees Mideast waterways. The ship’s captain reported there was a fire on board that had been extinguished, it said.
(with inputs from ANI)