How much ransom did the pirates demand for hijacked Indian cargo ship MV Ruen?

The Indian Navy handed over 35 Somali pirates apprehended from the hijacked Indian cargo ship to Mumbai police

Published : 25 March 2024, 08:19 AM
Updated : 25 March 2024, 08:19 AM

After hijacking the cargo vessel MV Ruen, which was recovered by the Indian Navy, Somali pirates demanded 5 billion Indian rupees as ransom to free the ship and its crew.

The Indian Navy freed the ship, rescued 17 crew members and apprehended 35 pirates, the Hindustan Times said, citing Mumbai police on Sunday.

The operation began in the Arabian Sea on Mar 15 and ended after a 40-hour combat engagement. The Indian Navy brought Somali pirates to Mumbai aboard the warship INS Kolkata on Saturday, days after they were captured by Indian forces around 260 nautical miles from the Garacad Port in Puntland, Somalia.

The pirates called the owners and demanded 5 billion Indian rupees as ransom for the ship and the crew. That was when the Indian Navy’s INS Kolkata reached the spot, rescued the crew and the ship and apprehended the pirates, the Hindustan Times said.

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 board the ship during the incident are all Bangladeshi.

The MV Abdullah is owned by SR Shipping, a subsidiary of the Kabir Group. The company on Wednesday said the pirates made contact with the ship owners for the first time through a third party, nine days after the ship and its 23 crew members were taken hostage.

However, the owners of MV Abdullah claimed the pirates had yet to make a ransom demand. The demand may be made during future discussions.

Meanwhile on Friday, BBC News Somali cited the commander of the police department of Nugal region in Somalia’s Puntland saying the law enforcers are carrying out an operation in the east to isolate the pirates on MV Abdullah and prevent them from getting help from the coast.

Stating that the ship is now in the coastal area of Jiifle, the commander of the police department of Nugal region Mohamed Ali Ahmed Marduuf said, “The pirates on the MV Abdullah have two options. They must choose between surrendering to Puntland and going through the punishment they deserve or, like the previous ship ‘MV Ruen', being taken over by foreign forces and taken to their respective countries.”

The European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) has also said on X that the maritime security force deployed a warship under its anti-piracy mission Operation Atalanta near the hijacked Bangladeshi-flagged vessel MV Abdullah on Friday.

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 owners of the ship do not support any military operation in consideration of the safety of the sailors. The government also wants this,” Kabir Group spokesman Mizanul Islam said.

The MV Jahan Moni was hijacked by the pirates in 2010. It was rescued 100 days afterwards following the payment of the ransom.

According to media reports published at that time, the pirates demanded $9 million as ransom for the vessel and the 26 crew members held hostage. After negotiating with the pirates through a third party, a total of $5.62 million was paid to the pirates, which is around Tk 520 million per the current dollar price.

On Mar 12, the MV Abdullah was captured by the pirates around 600 nautical miles off Somalia.

The Indian Navy’s warship INS Tarkash reached near the hijacked Bangladeshi ship on Mar 14, but the forces refrained from carrying out an operation at that time as the sailors were held hostage by armed pirates.

The EUNAVFOR proposed a forceful rescue of the Bangladeshi-flagged ship MV Abdullah and its crew members from Somali pirates but the government and the owner did not agree to the proposal considering the safety of the 23 seafarers, Khurshed Alam, secretary of maritime affairs in the ministry, said in a TV talk show.

EUNAVFOR, the anti-piracy mission on the East African coast, which operates under Operation ATALANTA, believes Indian ship MV Ruen which was under the control of pirates since December last year might have been used to hijack MV Abdullah.

The Indian Navy and EUNAVFOR have been monitoring MV Ruen's movements for a long time.

Based on the analysis of the surveillance information, the Indian Navy was able to track the movement of MV Ruen and directed INS Kolkata to intercept the ship at approximately 260 nautical miles east of Somalia on Mar 15.

The Indian Navy brought 35 Somali pirates to Mumbai aboard the warship INS Kolkata on Saturday.

The pirates stood in a queue at the Naval Dockyard and the Mumbai Police assigned them chest numbers. From the dockyard, the pirates were taken to the civic-run JJ Hospital for medical examination.

“On Saturday, the Indian Navy handed us all the 35 Somalian Pirates who were brought to Tiger Gate, Naval Dockyard by INS Kolkata. We have arrested them in the case registered following a formal complaint lodged by INS Kolkata’s regulating officer, Ajay Kumar,” said Sanjay Latkar, deputy commissioner of police, Port Zone.

The pirates have been booked under sections 364A (kidnapping for ransom), 383 (extortion), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 342 (wrongful confinement for ten or more days), 307 (attempt to murder), 506 (criminal intimidation) and under relevant sections of the Maritime Anti-Piracy Act, 2022, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and the Arms Act, 1959.

Latkar said they will have to hire a person who knows the Somali language to communicate with the arrested pirates, as they do not know any other language.

The police said the Navy handed them two small boats, three engines, nine mobile phones, 196 live cartridges, a knife, a camera, and the Somalian and Bulgarian passports of some of the arrested pirates.