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Indian Navy destroys pirate ship in Gulf of Aden

Atul Aneja

The ship threatened to blow up INS Tabar when asked to stop for investigation

— PHOTO: AP

IN THE DOCK: Somali pirates, arrested by sailors of HMS Cumberland as they attempted to hijack a cargo ship off the Horn of Africa, are being detained at the Kenya Ports Authority police station in Mombasa on Tuesday.

DUBAI: The Indian Navy has destroyed a “mother vessel” engaged in piracy in the Gulf of Aden a day after pirates forced a hijacked oil supertanker to enter Somalia’s perilous waters.

The incident took place 285 nautical miles (528 km) south-west of Oman’s port of Salalah.

According to the Navy, on Tuesday its warship INS Tabar spotted a ship which was similar in description to one of the vessels that was suspected of coordinating piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Two speed boats were accompanying the “mother vessel.” The ship threatened to blow up the Tabar when it was asked to stop for investigation. Armed with guns and rocket propelled grenades, the pirates could be seen roaming on the upper deck of their ship. The Navy said the Tabar retaliated when the other ship opened fire. Consequently, the vessel caught fire. Loud explosions could be heard, possibly because ammunition stored in the ship went off. In its statement, the Navy added: “Almost simultaneously, two speed boats were observed breaking off to escape. The ship chased the first boat, which was later found abandoned. The other boat made good its escape into darkness."

This is the second major occasion the Navy has encountered pirates in the Gulf of Aden. It prevented the hijacking of Indian merchant ship, Jag Arnav, and a Saudi vessel on November 11.

Diplomatic sources said Tuesday’s incident highlighted the Navy’s capability in the high seas, as seen earlier in the conduct of the Tsunami relief operations and during the Lebanon war of July-August 2006.

However, the Navy was facing four major hurdles in the conduct of its on-going anti-piracy operations, they said. First, more ships were required as a single ship, at any point of time, could scan for pirates only in a limited area of 20-30 nautical miles. Second, while Tabar was fuelling from its base in Salalah, a more elaborate logistics arrangement was necessary, with Yemen and Djibouti as other possible options. “We also need to work out an arrangement with Somalia’s U.N. recognised transitional government that would legalise the entry of Indian warships seeking pirates in Somalia’s territorial waters,” the sources observed. Besides, with more than 100,000 square miles to cover, coordination with other navies in the area “purely on an anti-piracy platform” was required, they said.

Pressure is also mounting on other navies operating in the area to destroy “mother ships” operated by pirates after the hijacking on Sunday of the supertanker, Sirius Star, the sources said.

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