Indian navy frees Iranian fishing boat hijacked off Somalia

Indian navy frees Iranian fishing boat hijacked off Somalia

NEW DELHI (AFP): India’s navy said Monday it had freed an Iranian fishing vessel hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia following the latest attack against shipping in the Indian Ocean.

“The fishing vessel had been boarded by pirates and the crew taken as hostages,” Indian navy spokesman Commander Vivek Madhwal said, naming the vessel as the Iranian-flagged Iman, adding its warship had “ensured the successful release of all 17 crew members along with the boat.”

Madhwal said India had deployed its warship INS Sumitra — which was on anti-piracy patrol off the east coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden — after receiving a distress message from the fishing vessel.

The warship “intercepted the vessel” and then worked to “coerce” the hijackers to release the crew and boat, official said, without giving an exact location.

The fishing boat was “sanitised and released for onward transit”, the navy said, without giving further details of the operation or the fate of the pirates.

International naval forces have been diverted north from the Gulf of Aden into the Red Sea after Houthi attacks, sparking fears of resurgent pirates exploiting the gap, with the first successful case of Somali piracy since 2017 recorded in December.

Pirate attacks off the Somali coast peaked in 2011 — with the gunmen launching attacks as far as 3,655 kilometres (2,270 miles) from the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean — before falling off sharply in recent years.

On Saturday, suspected Somali pirates boarded and hijacked the Sri Lankan fishing trawler Lorenzo Putha–4 with six crew, some 840 nautical miles southeast of the Somali capital Mogadishu, the Sri Lankan navy said.