Friday, May 13, 2011

Navy busts Somali pirates, frees captives

kochi: Indian Navy and Coast Guard have busted a Somali pirate ring and rescued 20 Thai and Myanmarese fishermen held hostage since April on board a captured Thai fishing vessel off Lakshadweep islands, Defence authorities said in Kochi yesterday.
The captured Thai vessel, Prantalay, which was being used as a mother ship by pirates to launch their skiffs for attacks along the international shipping lanes, was ablaze after being hit by intercepting firing.
The operation started with a Coast Guard ( CG) Dornier aircraft locating two skiffs with the Somali pirates after getting a distress call from a Bahamas flagged merchant vessel on Friday.
On being spotted, skiffs headed towards Prantalay, which hastily hoisted them on board and sped off westward. The Navy ordered it’s recently commissioned water jet fast attack craft, INS Cankarso, to intercept Prantalay.
By evening, INS Cankarso closed in on Prantalay and ordered it to disclose mercantile information but the vessel continued to flee, without responding.
INS Cankarso then fired a warning shot, triggering an exchange of fire and a blaze on Prantalay, where fuel drums were kept to power the skiffs. Soon pirates and hostages jumped off board to escape the blaze.
The Navy rescued 20 fishermen, the original crew of the fishing vessel and continued the search for possibly more fishermen and pirates still out at sea, Defence sources said.
Somalian pirates are believed to have collected nearly $ 100 million in ransom last year using which they acquired more sophisticated equipment and spread their operations near the Indian waters.
South Eastern Arabian sea has been a focal point of international traffic and the security of these sea lanes in the Arabian Sea is critical to the flow of global trade and India has stepped up surveillance along its coastlines in view of the increased threats from pirates in the Indian Ocean region.
The Navy has deployed its warships on round-the-clock patrolling around the Lakshwadeep and Minicoy islands where a new headquarters of the Coastguard was set up last month in view of the rising incidents of piracy and fears of terrorists misusing small uninhabited island territories in the Arabian Sea.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has also announced its plans to deploy fighter aircraft squadrons in southern parts of the country to tackle the threat from “non-state actors and to secure sea lanes”.
According to the Indian Navy, it has deployed 23 ships by rotation in the piracy-infested Gulf of Aden since October, 2008 and escorted over 1,400 merchant vessels so far to safety, over 1200 of them from about 50 other countries, and 26 piracy attempts foiled.