Hijacked Indian crew rescued off Somalia coast

In this handout photograph provided by the Indian Navy, the boarding team of a Navy ship approaches the Indian dhow MV Nafeya, foreground, in the Gulf of Aden waters, on Wednesday. AP/Indian Navy, HO

Registered in Porbandar, the dhow, MV Nafeya, was hijacked off Somalia on July 10 by seven pirates carrying rocket-propelled grenades and AK 47 rifles. The vessel was hijacked when it was about 10 nautical miles off Boossso in Puntland — semi-autonomous north eastern region of Somalia — after it discharged its cargo at the Somali harbour and headed towards Dubai.

The pirates forced the crew to take the dhow towards the Strait of Bab el Mandeb in the Gulf of Aden. On July 13, they even attempted to hijack a Liberian tanker MV A Elephant. The attack on the tanker was thwarted by a French warship belonging to the European Union Naval Force patrolling the pirate-infested waters. The ship was in the vicinity and managed to prevent the hijacking of MV A Elephant in time.

The French warship shadowed the pirated dhow and informed a Godavari-class Indian frigate which was in the waters nearby. Both warships tracked the pirated dhow continuously for three days. Helicopters were launched from the Indian warship for regular aerial inspection of the dhow, said a Navy officer.

Once the French team attempted to board the ship, but aborted their plan when the pirates threatened to kill the 14 crew held hostages on the dhow. Sensing a combined naval operation, the pirates forced the dhow to close in on the Somali coast and released the dhow on July 15 escaping in their skiffs after robbing the crew off their cash and valuables. The dhow and the crew are now safe and are heading towards Yemen. The coordinated exercise between the two navies happened because of the standard operating procedure perfected by the two navies after years of Varuna series of joint exercises, said the officer.

New Delhi has taken a pro-active anti-piracy role in the Gulf of Aden infested with Somali pirates. Naval battleships guide Indian flag ships and other vessels on the 48 hours passage on the internationally recognised transit corridor in the gulf where the piracy risk was the maximum.

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