Indian navy holds 61 pirates after skirmish at sea

Indian navy holds 61 pirates after skirmish at sea

‘Mothership’ and its crew captured by naval patrol in Arabian sea, with suspects facing trial in Mumbai

Five dozen pirates living on a hijacked ship serving as a roving pirate base jumped into the Arabian Sea after the Indian navy fired on the vessel, naval authorities said.

The navy captured 61 pirates fleeing the battle and the ensuing fire that broke out aboard the hijacked vessel. A pirate in Somalia threatened Indian sailors and the government with attacks in retaliation for the arrests.

The Indian navy said a patrol aircraft spotted the pirate mothership on Friday while responding to another vessel reporting an attack. The pirates aborted the hijack attempt and tried to escape on the mothership.

When the Indian navy closed in on Sunday night, the pirates fired on them. The hijacked vessel caught fire when Indian vessels returned fire, the navy said.

The pirates had hijacked the Mozambique-flagged Vega 5 in December and had used it as a mothership. Indian sailors rescued 13 crew members from the Vega 5 about 700 miles off Kochi in southern India, the statement said.

The pirates were carrying about 80 to 90 small arms or rifles and a few heavier weapons, it said. The statement did not describe any casualties among the navy, the fishermen or the pirates. The pirates were being taken to Mumbai to be prosecuted for attacking the Indian ships.

Piracy has plagued the shipping industry off east Africa for years, but violence and ransom demands have escalated, with pirates holding around 30 ships and more than 660 hostages as of last month.

A self-described pirate in Somalia, who gave his name as Bile Hussein, said the arrests would lead to “trouble” for Indian sailors and ships.

“They better release them, considering their people travelling in the waters, or we shall jail their people like that,” he said. “We are first sending a message to the Indian government of releasing our friends in their hands or else they have to be ready for their citizens to be mistreated in the near future.”

The Indian navy’s third anti-piracy operation this year followed the capture of 28 Somali pirates last month and 15 in January. Both groups are to be prosecuted in Mumbai.

Indian warships have been escorting merchant ships as part of international anti-piracy surveillance in the area since 2008. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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