Indian Navy rescues 23 Pakistani sailors from hijacked Iranian fishing vessel

An Iranian vessel was used by Somali pirates to hijack the Bangladeshi-flagged vessel MV Abdullah on Mar 12

Published : 30 March 2024, 07:51 AM
Updated : 30 March 2024, 07:51 AM

The Indian Navy has rescued a fishing vessel and its 23 Pakistani sailors hijacked by pirates in the Arabian Sea in an anti-piracy operation that lasted over 12 hours.

“Based on inputs on a potential piracy incident onboard an Iranian Fishing Vessel 'Al-Kambar 786' on Mar 28, two Indian Naval ships - mission deployed in the Arabian Sea for maritime security operations - were diverted to intercept the hijacked fishing vessel,” an official Indian Navy account said in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Saturday.

The Iran-flagged vessel was approximately 90 nautical miles Southwest of Socotra and reported to have been boarded by nine armed pirates, it added.

Socotra is an island in Yemen which is located off the eastern end of Somalia. The island in the middle of the Arabian Sea lies near the entrance to the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of the Horn of Africa.

MV Abdullah’s Chief Officer Atiq Ullah Khan had previously said in an audio message that an Iranian vessel was used by Somali pirates to hijack Bangladeshi-flagged vessel MV Abdullah on Mar 12.

The European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) under Operation ATALANTA reported that six of the 24 vessels hijacked in the Gulf of Aden and the Somali coast from November to Mar 21 were Iranian fishing vessels.

The Indian Navy, in its X statement, said the naval team responded to a pirate attack in the Arabian Sea as soon as the incident was reported. INS Sumedha intercepted the fishing vessel, or FV, Al-Kambar in the early hours of Friday after a distress call was sent out and was subsequently joined by the guided missile frigate INS Trishul.

"After more than 12 hours of intense coercive tactical measures as per the SOPs, the pirates on board the hijacked vessel were forced to surrender. The crew, comprising 23 Pakistani nationals, have been safely rescued."

Indian naval teams then thoroughly sanitised the vessel and checked its seaworthiness to escort the FV to safety so normal fishing activities could resume, the Navy statement read.

The Indian Navy remains committed to ensuring maritime security in the region and the safety of seafarers, irrespective of nationalities, Spokesperson Navy said.

Earlier this month, the Indian Navy carried out another operation and intercepted a ship, MV Ruen, sailing almost 2,600 km from the shores of the Indian Coast when pirates attacked it. The Navy forced the pirate ship to stop through calibrated actions.

In the 40-hour rescue operation, INS Kolkata successfully forced all 35 pirates to surrender and ensured the safe evacuation of 17 crew members from the vessel without any injuries.

MV Ruen, a Bulgarian-owned merchant vessel, was hijacked in December 2023 and had been under the control of the pirates since then.

Somali pirates also hijacked the Bangladeshi ship MV Abdullah on Mar 12 during its trip from Mozambique's Maputo port to the United Arab Emirates carrying 55,000 tonnes of coal along the Indian Ocean. The 23 sailors on the ship who were taken hostage during the incident are all Bangladeshi.

In a report on Mar 27, the Indian newspaper The Hindu said the Somali pirates used an Iranian fishing trawler named ‘Al Ashkaan’ to hijack MV Ruen last year on Dec 14.

Al Ashkaan was hijacked on Nov 29 last year, according to the latest report on piracy by EUNAVFOR, the anti-piracy mission on the East African coast, published on Mar 28.

The Hindu said Al Ashkaan was taken hostage by Somali pirates near Socotra Island off the coast of Yemen and used for the subsequent act of piracy.

Meanwhile, a previously hijacked Iranian fishing vessel was used to hijack the Bangladeshi-flagged ship MV Abdullah in the Arabian Sea.

The pirates attacked the ship with several high-speed speedboats and other members of the pirate group arrived at the scene after boarding an Iranian ship shortly after that, according to the audio message previously sent by MV Abdullah’s Chief Officer Khan.

The Iranian fishing trawler was hijacked months ago and the pirates used to roam the sea on the hijacked ship to find new ones to attack, Khan added.

The EUNAVFOR believes Indian ship MV Ruen, which was under the control of pirates since December last year, might have been used to hijack the MV Abdullah.

The MV Abdullah is currently anchored 1.5 nautical miles from the Jifal coast in the Nugal region of Somalia’s Puntland.

The EUNAVFOR and the Indian Navy were monitoring the ship during its seizure by the Somali pirates. The commander of the police department of the Nugal region in Somalia’s Puntland had previously said the law enforcers wanted to carry out an operation in the east to isolate the pirates on MV Abdullah and prevent them from getting help from the coast.

The EUNAVFOR had also said on X that the maritime security force deployed a warship under its anti-piracy mission Operation ATALANTA near the hijacked MV Abdullah.

However, the owners of the MV Abdullah have been opposed to any sort of operation on the vessel since the beginning of negotiations. Instead, they said they aim to leverage its past successes in negotiating the release of the MV Jahan Moni and its crew and the safe rescue of seven sailors from pirates to guide its efforts in securing the release of the MV Abdullah and its crew.

The ship’s owner Kabir Group said it was hopeful of releasing the vessel and sailors by paying ransom through negotiations.