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Indian Navy Hunting for Pirates in the Arabian Sea

Indian Navy Hunting for Pirates in the Arabian Sea

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Jan 6: Indian Naval forces who successfully rescued all the 21 crew members, including 15 Indians, from the hijacked cargo ship “MV Lila Norfolk” are hunting for the pirates and are investigating all suspected vessels in the North Arabian Sea which might have helped the pirates to escape after abandoning the hijacked ship.

The Indian Navy thwarted the attempted hijacking of Liberian-flagged vessel MV Lila Norfolk from near the Somalian coast and rescued all its crew members on Friday. The crew of the bulk carrier are now engaged in restoring the propulsion system, power supply and steering gear of the platform, the Navy said. “Thereafter, MV Lila Norfolk will recommence her passage to her destination under escort of the Indian naval warship,” it said.

The Navy deployed a warship INS Chennai, maritime patrol aircraft P-8I, helicopters and MQ9B Predator drones to assist the vessel, after it sent a message on the U.K. Maritime Trade Operations portal, saying some half-a-dozen unknown armed personnel had boarded it on January 4 evening.

On Friday, Indian Navy’s elite marine commandos rescued all 21 crew members of the commercial vessel after boarding it from frontline warship INS Chennai. The Navy came out with a statement detailing its response to the hijacking attempt. In a video shared by the Navy, three Indian crew members of the bulk carrier thanked the force for rescuing them. “I am proud of Indian Navy,” said one of them.

In a video shared by the Indian Navy, the rescued Indians can be seen chanting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai,” while thanking Navy for safely rescuing them from the hijacked vessel. One of the sailors, who were rescued by Navy, said they were stuck for 24 hours and they got relief after Navy rescued them.

The Navy said it swiftly responded to the hijacking incident by deploying considerable strength of assets, both ships and aircraft, with an aggressive intent to counter the attack by pirates.

“INS Chennai guided missile destroyer arrived at the scene of action by 1515 hours. Continuous aerial recce of MV Lila Norfolk was undertaken by MQ9B (Sea Guardian drone), P8I (maritime patrol aircraft) and integral helicopters,” it said in the statement.

It said subsequently, the Indian Navy Marine Commandos boarded MV Lila Norfolk and undertook thorough sanitisation of the upper decks, machinery compartments and living spaces. “The team did not find any pirates on-board. Forceful warnings by the Indian Naval aircraft to the vessel and likely interception by the Indian Navy warship, probably compelled the pirates to escape during the night hours,” it said.

“All 21 crew of MV Lila Norfolk have been rescued and are safe. Indian Naval forces are investigating the suspected vessels in the area,” the Navy said. “Presently, the crew of MV is engaged in restoring propulsion, power supply and steering gear,” it said.

Steve Kunzer, chief executive of the vessel’s Dubai-based owners Lila Global, thanked the Indian Navy for the rescue. “We also want to thank the professionalism of our crew who reacted safely and responsibly under the circumstances,” he said in a statement.

The attempted hijacking comes amid growing concerns over Houthi militants stepping up attacks on merchant vessels in the Red Sea amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar issued instructions to firmly deal with such maritime incidents.

This is among a series of such maritime incidents witnessed in the strategic waters over the last few weeks. Liberian-flagged vessel MV Chem Pluto, with 21 Indian crew members, was the target of a drone attack off India’s west coast on December 23. Besides MV Chem Pluto, another commercial oil tanker MV Sai Baba that was on the way to India came under a suspected drone strike in the Southern Red Sea on the same day. The vessel had a team of 25 Indian crew. In another incident, Malta-flagged vessel MV Ruen was hijacked on December 14 by pirates.

 

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