Indian Navy frigate sinks Somali pirate ship

November 19th, 2008 - 6:36 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) In a major boost to anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, an Indian Navy vessel staved off an attack by a group of Somali pirates and sank one of their ships, even as the sea bandits seized three more merchant vessels.Living up to its name that translates as “battle axe”, the stealth frigate INS Tabar sank a pirate ship that had fired at it in the dangerous waters of Gulf of Aden while it was engaged in anti-piracy surveillance and patrol operations late Tuesday.

“INS Tabar encountered a pirate vessel south west of Oman with two speedboats in tow. This vessel was similar in description to the ‘mother vessel’ mentioned in various piracy bulletins. INS Tabar closed in on the vessel and asked her to stop for investigation,” Indian Navy spokesperson Commander Nirad Sinha said.

Following repeated calls, the vessel threatened to blow up the INS Tabar if it closed in.

“Pirates were seen roaming on the upper deck of the vessel with guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers. The vessel continued threatening calls and subsequently fired upon INS Tabar,” Sinha said.

INS Tabar, which is also equipped with the Israeli Barak missiles, opened up with its medium machine gun, a closing-in weapon and capable of firing 4,500-5,000 rounds per minute. The episode, which began late Tuesday evening, continued for three-four hours.

“On being fired upon, INS Tabar retaliated in self defence and opened fire on the mother vessel. As a result, fire broke out on the pirate vessel and explosions were heard, possibly due to exploding ammunition that was stored on the vessel,” Sinha added.

Amidst all the action, the two speedboats broke off and escaped.

“INS Tabar chased the first boat which was later found abandoned. The other boat made good its escape into darkness,” Sinha added.

INS Tabar had, in a daring rescue mission last week, foiled an attempt by pirates to hijack two ships - and Indian and a Saudi Arabian merchant vessel.

An Indian Navy helicopter with marine commandos had reached the spot immediately after receiving an SOS from the Indian vessel. The rescuers noticed at least four or five high-speed attack boats with around five armed pirates each who were attempting to capture the two ships.

INS Tabar has been patrolling the Gulf of Aden since Nov 2. During this period, she has successfully escorted approximately 35 ships, including a number of foreign flagged vessels, safely during their transit through pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden.

Somalian pirates have attempted 95 hijackings this year alone, a 75 percent increase since 2007. They are currently holding 13 ships captive by the pirates in the Somali ports of Eyl and Hobyo in the Gulf of Aden.

Also on Tuesday, Somali pirates seized a Hong Kong registered merchant vessel with 25 crewmembers on board, including some Indians. The vessel, carrying 35,000 tonnes of wheat was headed for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas from Hong Kong.

National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) spokesman Sunil Nair said that as per latest reports available with it, the crewmen also include some from Iran and the Philippines.

“We are in touch with the concerned maritime authorities but so far we do not have the exact number of Indians and other details of the ship,” Nair told IANS in Mumbai.

The pirates also seized a Greek ship and a Kiribati-flagged fishing boat.

On Saturday, the pirates had conducted their most brazen hijacking yet, taking over the 330-metre long super tanker Sirius Star with some two million barrels of oil on board — worth at least US$100 million.

The latest incidents come a few days after the Japanese merchant vessel MT Stolt Valor was released Sunday. It had been hijacked by Somali pirates Sep 15 and had 22 crewmembers on board, including 18 Indians.

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