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Indian Navy rescues crew members and recaptures Somali pirate ship

Indian Navy rescues crew members and recaptures Somali pirate ship

The Indian navy said it has recaptured a bulk carrier from Somali pirates off the Indian coast and rescued 17 crew members, three months after it was hijacked.

The pirates took over the carrier, MV Ruen, in December 2023 near the Yemeni island of Socotra.

On Saturday, the Indian navy announced that all 35 pirates on board the Maltese-flagged cargo ship surrendered following a 40-hour-long operation involving drones, navy vessels and marine commandos.

The vessel was checked for illegal arms, ammunition and contraband, the navy said.

The development occurred after men on the bulk carrier fired at the Indian warship Kolkata in international waters on Friday, prompting the navy to intercept the vessel approximately 2,600 km off the Indian coast.

"The vessel opened fire on the warship, which is taking actions under international law, in self-defence and to counter piracy, with minimal force necessary to neutralise the pirates’ threat to shipping and seafarers," the navy said in a statement.

The warship carried out the interception of the vessel and forced the pirates to surrender through calibrated actions, with the assistance of other marine vessels and aircraft.

None of the rescued crew members sustained injuries during the operation, it added.

Activity from Somali pirates has dropped in recent years, but there has been growing concern it could resume amid the rising attacks on ships by Yemen's Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.

Bulgarian owner Navibulgar hailed the vessel's release as a "major success" for the entire global maritime community. "The resolution of this case proves that the security of commercial shipping will not be compromised."

"The Indian navy continues to ensure safety and security of the Mariners in the Indian Ocean Region," India's defence minister Rajnath Singh said on X.

"I congratulate the Indian Navy and the brave crew onboard the ships and aircraft, including MARCOs [marine commandos], for their determined and decisive actions."

India has recently begun to flex its naval power in international waters, including conducting anti-piracy patrols and a widely publicised deployment close to the Red Sea to help protect ships from attacks during the war between Israel and Hamas.

The navy has helped at least four merchant vessels that were attacked in high seas by Houthi forces. Indian forces include three guided missile destroyers and reconnaissance aircraft.

Earlier this week, a Bangladesh-flagged cargo ship with 23 crew members was hijacked by pirates off Somalia. A European Union vessel was tracking the ship, the EU's maritime security force said on Wednesday.