New Delhi, March 14 (IANS) In a major breakthrough in its anti-piracy operations, the Indian Navy Monday said it had arrested 61 heavily armed pirates and rescued 13 sailors from captivity in the Arabian Sea, about 600 nautical miles west of India.
“The navy’s INS Kalpeni intercepted pirate mother vessel Vega 5 in the sea Saturday 9 p.m. Thirteen crew members were rescued and 61 pirates nabbed,” a navy spokesperson said.
The rescued sailors and arrested pirates, whose nationality was being ascertained, were being brought to Mumbai and Kochi.
The operation comes days after India said it was tweaking its navy’s rules of engagement against pirates in the Indian Ocean to widen the scope of its offensive operations within the framework of international laws of the seas.
Detailing the operation, the spokesperson said naval surveillance aircraft Dornier received a call from MV Vancouver Bridge that had come under a pirate attack Friday.
The aircraft located Vega 5 in the area. Seeing the naval aircraft, the pirates immediately aborted their attempt and tried to escape from the area.
The patrol aircraft continuously tracked the pirate mother ship. Warships Khukri, a missile corvette, and Kalpeni, a water jet fast attack craft, were diverted to intercept Vega 5.
On Saturday night, Kalpeni closed in on Vega 5 and, in the darkness, the pirate mother vessel fired at Kalpeni.
This was responded with limited firing, the spokesperson said, adding that the mother vessel caught fire.
The navy recovered 74 personnel — 61 pirates and 13 members of the original crew of the fishing vessel Vega 5, a Mozambique-flagged ship that was hijacked Dec 28. It was being used as mother vessel by pirates.
The nationality of the rescued sailors was not immediately known.
The pirates were carrying about 80 to 90 small arms and rifles and a few heavier weapons, apparently rocket projectile launchers.
The intercepted vessel had been a risk to international shipping for last four months and has carried out several attacks, the spokesperson said.
South eastern Arabian Sea is a focal point of international traffic and the security of these sea lanes is critical to the flow of global trade.
The Indian Navy has sustained its anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden since October 2008.
The navy apprehended two pirate mother ships in January and February in the Arabian Sea. Forty-three pirates had been apprehended in these incidents.