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NEW DELHI: The Navy has sent a warship towards the Somali coast to keep a vigil on the hijacked merchant vessel on which seven Indian sailors are being held as hostages, despite payment of ransom by the owners of the ship.
INS Talwar, currently deployed on an anti-piracy patrol mission off the Gulf of Aden, was diverted towards the coast. The move is being seen as an aggressive posture by the Navy.
During an informal interaction here, Defence Minister A.K. Antony refused to comment on whether the warship would launch action to free the hostages. Sources in the Navy and the government maintained that the move was to ensure that the merchant vessel was not rendered further vulnerable, and that the warship would not leave the area unless the hostages were released.
After releasing eight other Indian sailors of the cargo ship MV Asphalt Venture, the pirates who were holding them hostage since last September have sought to hold the other seven back. It is understood that they are seeking release of 120 pirates held in Indian prisons following naval action in the Indian Ocean during the past few months.
India's move comes after the owners of the merchant vessel expressed ‘deep disappointment' over the Somali pirates not keeping their word after the company paid an undisclosed ransom. The owners have been appealing to the pirates to release the seven hostages as promised, since the ransom demand was made.
53 Indians held hostage
According to latest figures, 53 Indian sailors are being held hostage on five different ships. Of them, 17 have been held for the longest on MT Savina Caylyn, an Italian ship which was seized Feb 8, 2010.
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