Indian Navy ship sinks pirate vessel off Somalia (Second Lead)

November 19th, 2008 - 5:05 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) An Indian Navy vessel sank a pirate ship that had fired at it in the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden near Somalia, sources here said Wednesday, even as another three ships were hijacked by Somali sea bandits. The Indian Navy, however, did not confirm the sinking beyond saying that the stealth frigate INS Tabar, which is currently in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden for Anti-Piracy Surveillance and Patrol Operations, was late Tuesday fired at by pirates aboard a ship suspected to be the ‘mother vessel’.

“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 Neerad 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.

“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 said.

Amidst all the action, two speedboats broke off to escape.

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

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

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

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.

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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