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6 Jan, 2024 13:04

Indian warship intercepts vessel in Arabian Sea after hijacking

The country's navy responded to a distress call from MV Lila Norfolk, a Liberia-flagged bulk carrier that was boarded by armed men on Thursday
Indian warship intercepts vessel in Arabian Sea after hijacking

An Indian warship intercepted a merchant ship on Friday, which had been hijacked in the Arabian Sea off the Somalian coast. All members of the crew, including 15 Indian nationals, have been rescued, the Navy said.

The MV Lila Norfolk, a Liberia-flagged bulk carrier that had been boarded by six armed men, had been kept under continuous surveillance since the incident, through a combination of maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), MQ9B predator drones, and helicopters, the military said.

The INS Chennai, a Kolkata class stealth-guided missile destroyer on “anti-piracy” patrol in the region, was diverted towards the hijacked ship after the Navy received a distress call on Thursday.

After the Indian destroyer caught up with the ship, marine commandos (MARCOs) boarded the vessel and commenced “sanitization,” the military said in a statement. The hijackers, however, were not found during the operation.

The attempt at hijacking by the would-be pirates was “probably abandoned” due to a “forceful warning” of intervention, the Navy observed in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

The INS Chennai remains in the vicinity of the merchant vessel and is “rendering support to restore the power generation and propulsion, to commence her voyage to next port of call”, the Navy added.

New Delhi has increased its naval presence in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden amid attacks on passing vessels by Yemen-based Houthi rebels acting “in solidarity with Gaza”. India has deployed five guided missile destroyers and continues to “monitor the maritime security situation,” the Navy said.

The development comes weeks after another vessel, the Maltese-flagged MV Ruen, was hijacked in the area en route from Gwangyang, South Korea. The Indian Navy responded to a distress call and assisted in the evacuation of an injured crew member from the hijacked vessel.

In a separate incident last month, MV Chem Pluto, a Japanese-owned and Liberian-flagged vessel with 20 Indians on board, came under attack from suspected drones 400 kilometers west of the Indian coast. In the aftermath of the attack, which the US blamed on drones “fired from Iran,” New Delhi promised “strict action against the attacks.”