A 14-member Indian crew on board a country-made vessel hijacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden have been rescued in a joint
operation by Indian and French warships, the Navy said on Thursday.
The combined action by the two friendly navies patrolling the pirate-infested waters had led to the seven sea brigands, who were holding the crew at gun point, to release the Indians without any ransom being paid and to abandon the dhow.
The proactive action took place near Bab el Mandeb on Wednesday after the French warship had thwarted the sea brigands' attempts to capture a Liberian merchant vessel A Elephant by using the hijacked Indian dhow as a mother ship, a Navy spokesperson said here.
The dhow was in the control of the pirates since July 10 when they had taken it forcibly after firing at it with their AK-47 assault rifles and threating to fire rocket propelled grenades at the vessel 10 nautical miles off Boosaaso in Puntland, Somalia.
The dhow was on its way to Dubai after off-loading cargo at a Somali harbour when the pirates had attacked it.
The rescue took place after the French warship belonging to the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR), which was in the vicinity, received an SOS call from the Liberian tanker, which was being fired upon by the pirates during their attempt to forcibly board the merchant vessel.
The French warship launched its helicopter towards the distressed merchant vessel and on noticing the naval chopper, the pirates gave up their hijack effort, the Navy said.
The French warship, however, did not remain contented with saving MV A Elephant and moved swiftly to shadow the pirated dhow, being operated as the mother ship by the Somali pirates.
The French also put well-practiced standard operating procedures with the Indian Navy into effect and exchanged information with the Godavari class frigate on the anti-piracy patrol.
Both the navies' warships continuously tracked the dhow and cornered it after the Indian frigate launched its Sea King helicopter with Marine Commandos on board.
The pirates, however, freed the 14 Indian sailors and abandoned the dhow, escaping on their skiffs after robbing the crew members of all their cash and valuables around 0300 Hours, the spokesperson said.
The dhow's crew, thereafter, contacted the Indian warship on Very High Frequency radio sets and sought assistance. The frigate closed in on the dhow and in coordination with the French warship, boarded the merchant vessel to provide food, water and medicines, apart from ensuring they were safe. Later, the dhow sailed to Al Mukkalla in Yemen, he added.
Thursday, July 16, 2009