French naval ship rescues hijacked Indian sailors

French naval ship rescues hijacked Indian sailors

A French naval ship intercepted a hijacked Indian dhow near the Gulf of Aden and rescued its 11-member crew, an official said Wednesday.

On Jan 18, French landing platform dock Siroco, flagship of the EU Naval Force Atalanta, released the Indian crew and arrested five suspected pirates holding the crew hostage, a statement from the French embassy said.

On Jan 17, the Siroco was alerted about a pirate attack on an oil tanker, the Nave Atropos, sailing under the Marshall Islands flag. The French ship forced the pirates to sail away from the merchant ship.

The incident was relayed to all ships and military assets in the area, and started off an international coordination operation carried out by the Atalanta headquarters.

This helped in zeroing-in on the location of a dhow suspected of having served as the attackers' mother-ship.

The Siroco undertook to intercept the dhow. A maritime patrol aircraft from other counter-piracy forces and the Siroco's own helicopter pursued the dhow for several hours before it was intercepted Jan 18, said the statement.

Backed by the Siroco's Alouette III helicopter, a team caught up with the dhow, identified as Shane Hind, which was then flying the Indian flag. As they approached the dhow, some people were seen throwing equipment overboard.

The 11 Indian crew members held hostage were liberated and five suspected pirates quickly surrendered to the French forces.

The Indian dhow, which was likely being used as a mother ship during the attack, was pirated several days ago much farther south, off the eastern Somali coast, said the statement.

The mission of Operation Atalanta is to escort World Food Programme (WFP) vessels, participate in securing maritime traffic and contribute to the deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy off the Somali coast.

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