After a gun-battle in the high seas, the Indian Navy has apprehended a pirate mother ship rescuing 13 crew members and arrested 61 Somali sea brigands about 600 nautical miles off the western coast in the Arabian Sea.
In its most successful anti-piracy operation, the Navy has captured 61 Somali pirates and rescued 13 crew members of a merchant vessel, who are being brought to Mumbai for further questioning and prosecution.
This is Indian Navy’s third major anti-piracy operation in the last three months. In the two previous operations, 43 pirates were caught, signalling increased piracy activities in the Indian Ocean targeting the nine and ten-degree channels through which cargo ships for South Asia ply.
The latest operation started on March 11 after a Naval Dornier while responding to a call from MV Vancouver Bridge which was under pirate attack, located Vega 5- the mother vessel- in the Indian Ocean. Vega 5, a Mozambique-flagged fishing vessel, was hijacked by the pirates more than three months ago and was being used as mother vessel for piracy operations.
Seeing the naval aircraft, the pirates aborted their attempt and began escaping. But the Dornier continued to chase Vega-5 while two naval ships ‘Khukri’ and ‘Kalpeni’ (a Fast Attack Craft) already deployed for anti-piracy patrol, were diverted to intercept and investigate Vega 5, said a navy official.
On the night of March 12 Kalpeni closed on Vega 5. Taking the cover of night, the pirates launched two skiffs to escape. They fired at Kalpeni, which responded with limited firing.
In the gun-battle, Vega-5 caught fire possibly because one of the bullets hit the additional fuel drums that pirates generally carry to fuel the skiffs while fleeing from the scene. Some jumped overboard after which two naval ships captured 74 personnel comprising 61 pirates and 13 members of the original crew of the fishing vessel.The successful operation almost coincided with the government’s decision to change anti-piracy policies providing the Navy with a much more pro-active role.