Navy rescues 16 crew members; foils Somali pirates' attack

Navy rescues 16 crew members; foils Somali pirates' attack

The Navy has also apprehended 16 pirates after battling them west of the Lakshadweep Islands. This was the second pirate attack thwarted by the Navy and Coast guard in the Arabian sea in a fortnight. They have been maintaining surveillance off the Lakshadweep islands over the several months as part of 'Operation Island Watch'.

"INS Suvarna yesterday intercepted a pirate mother vessel called Morteza, an Iranian trawler hijacked by the pirates off the Lakshadweep. Morteza has been used as the mother vessel by the pirates. After nearly three hours of operation, 16 crew members, 12 of whom were Iranians and remaining Pakistanis, were rescued and 16 Somalian pirates were apprehended," Defence spokesperson captain M Nambiar said.

The operation began when a maritime reconnaissance aircraft TU142 on patrol located Morteza, while responding to a distress call received at the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre(MRCC) at 11 am from a merchant ship MV Maersk Kensington, Nambiar added.

The aircraft facilitated INS Survarna, patrolling in the area, to intercept the pirate vessel. The Coast Guard ship ICGS Sangram was also diverted for the operation. Seeing the aircraft and the Naval vessel, the pirates immediately attempted to escape from the area, he said.

Several warnings by INS Suvarna to stop the pirates vessel failed. The pirates even opened fire on the Naval ship following which Naval guards fired at them in defence, the captain said.

"The firing by the Navy resulted in pirates vessel catching fire prompting the pirates and the hostages to jump into the waters." The Naval ship quickly rescued the hostages and also launched a Life Raft for pirates. ICGS Sangram also joined the rescue operation. The entire operation lasted for at least three hours.

"It is not yet clear when the Iranian trawler was hijacked. The hostages and the pirates are being brought to Mumbai in INS Suvarna and will be handed over to police for further action," the spokesperson said.

On March 13, the Indian Navy had foiled pirates' attack and apprehended a pirate mother ship rescuing 13 crew members and caught 61 Somali sea brigands about 600 nautical miles off the western coast in the Arabian Sea.