In the second major anti-piracy operation off Lakshadweep in 10 days, the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard on Sunday apprehended 52 men including 28 suspected Somali pirates on board a ship after a brief gun-battle near the islands.
The forces foiled a pirate plan to attack a Greek-flagged merchant ship and apprehended Prantalay-11, the sister vessel of fishing trawler Prantalay-14 that was also being used as the mother ship by the sea brigands and was sunk by the navy in the Arabian Sea earlier.
"Naval ship INS Tir and Coast Guard ship ICGS Samar intercepted the pirates' mother ship Prantalay-11 within Indian waters after a gun-battle and forced the brigands to surrender. A total of 52 men have been apprehended of which 28 are suspected to be Somali pirates," navy spokesperson Captain M Nambiar said.
Officials said the operation had started on Saturday evening when the navy learnt that MV Chios was being attacked by two pirate skiffs some 100 kms off the Kavaratti island.
After receiving the input, Navy's western command in Mumbai directed the INS Tir and the ICGS Samar, who are already deployed in the region for anti-piracy operations, to rush to the site and apprehend the pirates and their mother ship, they said. "After locating the skiffs, the two ships asked the pirates to surrender but they fired back at us and fled to their mother ship. After the two ships tracked the mother vessel, they were fired upon again by the pirates," they said.
"The Tir and the Samar returned fire briefly after which the pirates raised white flags to surrender," they said.
The pirates and the crew of the Prantalay 11 have now been brought to Mumbai for interrogation by police and intelligence agencies. The agencies will also probe if the apprehended pirates have any links with Pakistan-based terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Tayiba.
The pirate ship apprehended today is part of the Prantalay family of ships which are distinguished from one another by their suffix numbers. Several of these trawlers are known to have been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia, between four and six months ago.
After the recent spurt in piracy incidents, the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard have maintained increased presence in the central Arabian Sea to nab Somali pirates who have started moving towards the country.
India has been deploying its frigates and destroyers in the Gulf of Aden as part of anti-piracy efforts since November 2008.