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25 Mar, 2024 11:37

Indian court arrests 35 Somali pirates

The Indian Navy apprehended the raiders, who had hijacked a Bulgarian bulk carrier for use attacking other vessels
Indian court arrests 35 Somali pirates

A court in Mumbai, India placed over 35 pirates from Somalia in police custody on Sunday, according to ANI news agency, almost a week after they were apprehended by Indian Navy personnel in the Arabian Sea aboard the hijacked merchant ship MV Ruen. The pirates were brought to Mumbai aboard the Indian Navy destroyer INS Kolkata on Saturday.

The Somalian nationals could face up to life in prison; they are the first to be prosecuted under India’s 2022 anti-piracy law, which allows the country’s navy to make arrests at sea.

The pirates were using the Bulgarian-owned, Maltese-flagged bulk cargo ship MV Ruen, which they had hijacked in December for the purpose of launching attacks on other vessels. On March 15, the INS Kolkata intercepted the Ruen almost 2,600km west of the Indian coast and after a 40-hour operation, the pirates were forced to surrender. The 17 crew members were safely evacuated, the Indian Navy said in a statement. The ship was later brought to India with 37,800 tons of cargo worth around $1 million. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Mariya Gabriel later thanked the Indian Navy for its “support and great effort.” 

The rescue of the Ruen comes as the role of the Indian Navy has been expanded in the Arabian Sea amid an ongoing crisis in the region in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war. Houthi rebels from Yemen have launched multiple attacks on Israel-linked vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea “in solidarity” with Gaza. At the same time, piracy has made a return for the first time in nearly a decade – since November, pirates have made or attempted more than 20 hijackings, according to Reuters.

In another development, the Indian Navy earlier this month responded to a piracy attack on the Bangladeshi-flagged MV Abdullah. The Indian warship intercepted the hijacked vessel on March 14, ensuring the initial safety of the Bangladeshi crew held hostage by armed pirates and maintaining proximity until it arrived in Somalia’s territorial waters.  The Indian Navy has contacted the Bangladesh government and the ship’s owner, offering to conduct operations aboard the MV Abdullah, and is currently “keeping a close watch” on the situation with the hijacked vessel.

On Saturday, India’s maritime operation code-named ‘Sankalp’ (translated as “resolution”) – launched in response to “the manifestation of Israel – Hamas conflict in the maritime domain” entered its 100th day, the country’s military said in a statement

During this period, its navy responded to 18 incidents, deploying over 5,000 personnel on 21 ships and many surveillance aircraft. “This is the Indian Ocean, named after us, and if we don’t take action, then who will?” Admiral R. Hari Kumar, the chief of the Indian Navy, asked rhetorically while addressing the press. He vowed that the force will continue taking action against threats posed by pirates and drone attacks to ensure that the region remains safe, secure and stable. 

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