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SOURCE: PTI

The Indian Navy rescued an Iranian-flagged fishing vessel with 19 Pakistani crew members and a Sri Lankan trawler in two swift operations after armed pirates hijacked the boats in the Arabian Sea amid deteriorating security situation arising out of Iran-backed Houthi rebels targeting various cargo ships in the region.

Indian warship INS Somalia rescued fishing vessel (FV) Al Naeemi from 11 Somali pirates off the east coast of Somalia on Monday, in the second such rescue of an Iranian-flagged vessel in the troubled region, officials said.

In total, the Indian Navy rescued three hijacked vessels in the Arabian Sea since January 28.

“Indian naval ship Sumitra, having thwarted the piracy attempt on FV Iman, has carried out yet another successful anti-piracy operation off the east coast of Somalia, rescuing fishing vessel Al Naeemi and her 19 Pakistani crew from 11 Somali pirates,” Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said.

The warship had responded to a distress call from FV Iman on January 28 and rescued the vessel and its 17 Iranian crew members from armed pirates.

In another mission on Monday, the Indian Navy along with naval forces of Sri Lanka and Seychelles, rescued a fishing vessel after it was hijacked in the sea lanes east of Mogadishu.

The Sri Lankan-flagged fishing trawler Lorenzo Putha was hijacked by three pirates on January 27, Madhwal said.

“In a coordinated multilateral response to the hijacking of a Sri Lankan fishing vessel, the Indian Navy in collaboration with Seychelles defence forces and Sri Lankan Navy successfully intercepted and rescued the hijacked vessel,” he said.

The three pirates surrendered to the Seychelles Coast Guard (SCG) and all six crew members are safe and the vessel is being escorted to Mahe in Seychelles, he said.

On Sunday, the Indian Navy deployed INS Sharada and also tasked the Sea Guardian long-range drones to locate and intercept the hijacked fishing vessel.

“Additionally, efficient operational coordination and information sharing through the Sri Lanka and Seychelles International Liaison Officers at IFC-IOR, New Delhi resulted in the interception of the hijacked fishing vessel on Monday,” he said.

The Indian Navy established the IFC-IOR (Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region) in 2018 to effectively keep track of the shipping traffic as well as other critical developments in the region under a collaborative framework with like-minded countries.

In a statement, the Navy provided details of INS Sumitra rescuing FV Al Naeemi.

“INS Sumitra was pressed into action to locate and intercept another Iranian-flagged FV Al Naeemi, which had been boarded by pirates and her crew taken hostage,” it said.

“Responding swiftly, Sumitra intercepted the vessel on January 29 evening and through coercive posturing and effective deployment of her integral helicopter and boats compelled the safe release of the crew and the vessel,” it said.

INS Sumitra has been deployed for anti-piracy and maritime security operations in east of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden.

“INS Sumitra, over the course of less than 36 hours (time since the first distress call from FV Iman), through swift, persistent and relentless efforts has rescued two hijacked fishing vessels along with 36 crew members in the southern Arabian Sea, approximately 850 nautical miles west of Kochi, and prevented the misuse of these fishing vessels as mother ships for further acts of piracy on merchant vessels,” the Navy said.

Last week, the Indian Navy’s guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam extinguished a fire onboard a commercial oil tanker with 22 Indian crew after the vessel was struck by a missile in the Gulf of Aden.

The Navy on January 5 thwarted an attempted hijacking of Liberian-flagged vessel MV Lila Norfolk in the North Arabian Sea and rescued all its crew members.

Liberian-flagged vessel MV Chem Pluto, with 21 Indian crew members, was the target of a drone attack off India’s west coast on December 23.

Besides MV Chem Pluto, another commercial oil tanker that was on the way to India came under a suspected drone strike in the Southern Red Sea on the same day.

The vessel had a team of 25 Indian crew.

The Navy has already enhanced the deployment of its frontline ships and surveillance aircraft for maritime security operations in view of the maritime environment in the critical sea lanes including in the North and Central Arabian Sea.