Indian naval forces have rescued two hijacked vessels off Somalia’s coast as fears grow over a possible resurgence in piracy in the area.
The rescues by the warship INS Sumitra came within 36 hours of each other.
Just days earlier, Seychelles defence forces reported freeing a group of fishermen from pirates.
The waters off the Somali coast were previously a hotbed for piracy, but it had all but stopped after international forces stepped up patrols.
India, for example, has helped patrol the area constantly since 2008.
However, many of those naval forces have moved up into the Red Sea, AFP news agency reports, where the Houthi rebel group, based in Yemen, have been attacking ships. Experts now fear the gap will be exploited by pirates in the region, the news agency said.
The first successful hijacking in the region since 2017 took place last December, with Michael Howlett, director of the International Maritime Bureau, noting it was “a cause for concern”.
However, Troels Burchall Henningsen, associate professor at the Royal Danish Defence College, told the BBC a full-scale resurgence reaching previous heights was unlikely, with the recent attacks seeming opportunistic.
Attacks certainly appear to have increased in January. According to the Indian navy, its ship responded to the distress message on 28 January, intercepting an Iranian-flagged vessel. Naval officers then “coerce[d] the pirates for safe release of crew along with the boat”, according to a post on X (formerly Twitter).
Once the 17 crew members were released, the ship was sanitised and allowed to continue its journey. The statement did not mention the status of the pirates.
Then on Tuesday, two days later, the navy said INS Sumitra was again “pressed into action to locate and intercept another Iranian-flagged fishing vessel Al Naeemi”.
Navy personnel boarded the vessel to sanitise it and check on the well-being of the crew, made up of 19 Pakistani sailors, it added.
The status of the pirates was not mentioned again, but a photo posted on X showed armed navy personnel guarding men who had their hands tied behind their backs.
Earlier in January, Indian Navy commandos rescued 21 crew members from a Liberian-flagged ship which was attacked by pirates off the Somalian coast.
Meanwhile, the Seychelles said its forces freed six Sri Lankan fishermen on Saturday, after they were held hostage for three days by gunmen who attacked them some 840 nautical miles (1,555km) southeast of the Somali capital Mogadishu.
On 26 January, the Indian Navy said it deployed its warship INS Visakhapatnam in the Gulf of Aden in response to a distress call from Marlin Luanda, a tanker with links to the UK that was on fire for several hours after being hit by a missile fired by the Houthis. French and US naval ships also provided assistance to the vessel.
By Meryl Sebastian |BBC |