India brings 35 Somali pirates to Mumbai to face trial over hijacking of bulk cargo ship

India brings 35 Somali pirates to Mumbai to face trial over hijacking of bulk cargo ship

India’s navy on Saturday brought 35 Somali piratesto Mumbai to face trial on charges of hijacking a bulk cargo ship off the coast of Somalia.

Armed pirates captured the MV Ruen, a Malta-flagged bulk cargo vessel, in the Arabian Sea along with its crew of 17 sailors in December.

Last Saturday the Indian navy rescued the vessel, freeing the hostages and arresting the pirates.

“INS Kolkata, with the 35 apprehended pirates, returned to Mumbai on March 23 and handed over the pirates to the local police for further legal action in accordance with Indian laws,” the Indian Navy said.

During the 40-hour operation, Indian troops intercepted the hijacked ship about 482km east of Somalia.

Several armed pirates were spotted on the ship and detained in accordance with the UN Conventions on the Laws of the Sea, the Indian Navy said.

The Indian navy warship Kolkata and a drone were sent to confirm the presence of the pirates, who shot the drone down and fired at the vessel.

Troops escort captured Somali pirates after they were brought in for prosecution by the Indian Navy, at the naval dockyard in Mumbai. Reuters
Troops escort captured Somali pirates after they were brought in for prosecution by the Indian Navy, at the naval dockyard in Mumbai. Reuters

The destroyer disabled the hijacked ship’s steering system and navigational tools and stopped its journey towards the Somali coast.

The troops later launched a counterassault from the sea and air, forcing the armed men to surrender.

“INS Kolkata thereafter acted in self-defence and used kinetic measures required to disable the ship and compel the pirates to surrender,” the Indian Navy said.

MV Ruen’s 17 crew members, including nine from Myanmar, seven from Bulgaria and one from Angola, were freed safely from the armed gang.

The Indian navy searched the vessel for illegal arms, ammunition and contraband, and said its 37,800 tonnes of cargo is thought to be worth $1 million.

The captured Somalis will be held in custody pending trial. Reuters
The captured Somalis will be held in custody pending trial. Reuters

The accused were expected to appear before a magistrate on Saturday before being sent to jail pending trial.

If proven guilty, they could be sentenced to life for piracy.

The Indian Navy said it had received information that the MV Ruen was being used as a mother ship for launching piracy attacks and hijackings.

“We have always suspected that there were mother vessels and were thinking that they must be dhows. But we were surprised that MV Ruen was being used as a mother vessel,” Admiral R Hari Kumar, India’s Chief of Naval Staff, said.

He was speaking to mark 100 days of the Indian Navy’s operations for anti-drone, anti-missile and anti-piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and Red Sea.

Somali pirates caused disruption in waterways for a decade leading up to 2018, but had been subdued until a resurgence of attacks starting late last year.

The recent spate of attempted hijackings coincided with attacks on commercial shipping in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi militia, who say their campaign is a response to Israel’s war on Gaza.

The Indian Navy said that it has deployed ten warships along with surveillance aircraft, sea guardian drones and a huge number of personnel to undertake anti-piracy and anti-drone operations in the Arabian Sea and adjoining areas.

“The task is to ensure safety and stability for merchant vessels carrying cargo to reach shores safely. Because they are deployed there, they can respond to attacks or incidents as first responders,” Admiral Kumar said.

Updated: March 23, 2024, 12:27 PM

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