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A day after capturing 35 Somali pirates and freeing 17 hostages held by them in a dramatic operation, the Indian Navy on Sunday said the action reflects its resolve to reinforcing peace and stability in the Indian Ocean and thwarting resurgence of piracy in the region.

The Navy seized former Maltese-flagged merchant vessel (MV) Ruen on Saturday around 2,600 km off the Indian coast in a well-calibrated operation that experts say was the first such successful takeover of a vessel from Somali pirates in the last around seven years.

The nearly-40-hour operation saw the Navy deploying its stealth-guided missile destroyer INS Kolkata, patrol vessel INS Subhadra, long-endurance Sea Guardian drones, besides airdropping of elite marine commandos — MARCOS — using a C-17 aircraft.

The merchant vessel, Ruen, was seized by the Somali pirates in December last year off the coast of Somalia. In a statement, the Navy said the seaworthiness of MV Ruen is being assessed and the vessel carrying approximately 37,800 tonnes of cargo worth around USD 1 million will be brought safely to India.
“The culmination of the ongoing anti-piracy operation involving pirate ship Ruen in the Southern Indian Ocean Region highlights the commitment of the Indian Navy towards reinforcing peace and stability, and also to thwart the resurgence of piracy in the region,” it said.

The Navy has deployed more than 10 warships to keep a vigil over the strategic waterways following increasing attacks on cargo vessels in the Red Sea by Houthi-backed militants.

In the midst of rising global concerns over the Houthi attacks, the Indian Ocean saw increasing incidents of piracy. “INS Kolkata, mission-deployed in the Arabian Sea, through the sustained high tempo of operations lasting over 40 hours, has thwarted the designs of the Somali pirates to hijack ships transiting through the region by intercepting the pirate ship MV Ruen on March 16,” the Navy said.

Sharing some aspects of the operation, the Navy said its warship, INS Kolkata, intercepted Ruen on Wednesday morning and confirmed the presence of armed pirates through a ship-launched drone.
“In a reckless hostile act, the pirates shot down the drone and fired at the Indian Naval warship,” it said, adding that INS Kolkata disabled the vessel’s steering system and navigational aids, forcing it to stop sailing.

Following this, the MARCOS commandos seized the vessel, captured the pirates and rescued the crew members of Ruen. “INS Kolkata undertook precisely measured actions while maintaining her position close to the pirate ship and also engaged in forceful negotiations, which resulted in the pirates surrendering and releasing the pirate ship MV Ruen and its original crew present onboard,” the Navy said.
“The efforts of the Indian Navy in the ongoing anti-piracy operation 1,400 nautical miles (2,600 km) from mainland India were augmented by the deployment of INS Subhadra in the area (on Saturday), and also by air-dropping of the marine commandos by C-17 aircraft in the same afternoon,” it added.

The Navy said the pirate vessel was kept under surveillance by high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft and P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft. “Due to sustained pressure and calibrated actions by the Indian Navy over the last 40 hours, all 35 Somali pirates surrendered,” it said.
“All 17 original crew members of MV Ruen were also safely evacuated from the pirate vessel without any injury. The vessel has also been sanitised,” it added. The Navy said it remains steadfast in performing its role as the “First Responder” in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).