M A I N   N E W S

11 pirates killed as Navy sinks hijacked ship
15 sea brigands held, 20 fishermen freed
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

An Indian naval warship, acting in self-defence, sunk a hijacked ship that was being used by pirates in the Arabian Sea. The incident occurred some 200 nautical miles (360 km) west off Kochi in Kerala.

New Delhi, January 29
In a major strike, an Indian naval warship, acting in self-defence, has sunk a hijacked ship that was being used by pirates in the Arabian Sea. A total of 11 sea brigands are feared killed while 15 of their accomplices have been captured alive and 20 hostages have been freed from the clutches of the pirates.

The pirate vessel, a hijacked Thai fishing trawler MV Prantalay, was being used by the sea robbers to launch attacks near the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea. A major sea shipping lane called the 9 degree channel passes just north of the Islands. The incident occurred last night some 200 nautical miles (360 km) west off Kochi in Kerala, Indian Navy spokesperson Commander PVS Satish confirmed this morning.

MV Prantalay was being used by the pirates since April 2010 and was involved in several piracy incidents. The Indian naval ship INS Cankarso, a water jet propelled fast attack craft that can travel at speeds of 35 knots, carried out the operation. The naval crew and the ship, which was inducted in June 2010, are safe, officials confirmed. This ship was later joined in by INS Kalpeni and Coast Guard Vessel CGS Sankalp.

The chase for MV Prantalay started yesterday morning on the high seas when the pirates had used the ship in a piracy bid some 220 miles off Kochi. The attempt was to take over a 73,000-tonne merchant vessel MV CMA CGM Vedri, but it was foiled by the Navy and the Coast Guard. The pirates, using small fast speed skiffs, made good their escape and boarded MV Prantalay.

By 5 pm yesterday, INS Cankarso closed in on the pirate ship and made efforts to establish communication on the international Mercantile Marine Band, but there was no response. In keeping with internationally accepted norms, INS Cankarso fired a warning shot well ahead of the pirate ship to compel her to stop. Instead of stopping, the pirates opened fire. The return attack of the Navy caused a fire in the pirate ship.

The Navy men then released 20 fishermen of Thai and Myanmarese nationality. They were the original crew of the fishing vessel and were being held hostage for several months.

Yesterday’s incident is the second major score for the Navy since it was tasked, some two months ago, to focus on pirates operating some 400-500 miles away from India’s western shoreline. In late November last year, the Navy had apprehended 14 Pakistanis and five Iranians on a dhow sailing suspiciously in the area.

The pirates, under pressure from international navies operating off the coast of north-eastern Africa and the Gulf, have started moving closer to the Indian coastline. The Defence Ministry has ordered three warships on permanent patrol and has also opened a new Coast Guard station on the Lakshadweep Islands.

Separately, the Navy, since it was deployed in the Gulf of Aden in October 2008 has foiled some 27 piracy attempts in the international waters.




Link between pirates, ultras: Intel agencies
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 29
In what could be a nightmare for India and also for other countries, Indian intelligence and security agencies and the Indian Navy have warned that pirates operating in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean have definite links with terrorist organisations like the Al-Qaida and the Laskhar-e-Toiba.

Well-places sources confirmed that sleuths have warned of links between pirates and terrorists with the possibility of the two sides working in tandem. This emerged at a closed door, meeting of all stake-holders on coastal security on January 21 at Mumbai. This meeting was attended by representatives of the Navy, Coastguard, and security agencies working under the Home Ministry, besides the shipping, fisheries and finance ministries. “Pirates, who are anyway gun-toting mercenaries working for a ransom, can be picked up by terrorist organisations to launch a terror strike using the sea route like the one on Mumbai in November, 2008”, a source said while narrating a warning that emerged at the meeting. In the past, Naval warships doing anti-piracy patrols have noted that “maritime comfort-level and competency of the pirates has improved and is much superior”. This indicates that land based capability is backing the efforts of the pirates on the high seas.

Pirates have developed significant support structures whereby they are able to hold hijacked ships and crew hostage for months. This could be catastrophic in case of hostage situation like the one faced in 1999 at Kandahar when IC-814 was hijacked, opined a functionary.

The assessment is based on facts that pirates now operate from big ships which they hijack at high-seas. Indian security agencies have also briefed the top brass on the military and political side.

Last month, the Navy issued an alert asking all fishing vessels and merchant ships plying on the western coast to maintain a safe distance from Indian naval ships. The Navy fears that explosive-laden fast boats and trawlers could be rammed into a Naval ship to explode it. US Navy and French Navy ships also operate in the Arabian Sea.

Four days ago Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s ambassador to the UN had conveyed to the Security Council a five-step approach to tackle piracy

India wants tracking of the trail of ransom money to different parts of the world, prosecution of the beneficiaries of ransom money for abetting piracy, conduct of naval operations under the UN, sanitation of the Somali coastline through identified corridors and enactment of national laws to criminalise piracy.

Security agencies worry at the easy flow of money accruing from the ransom in lieu of ships and hostages. The latest international study by a London-based think tank estimated the total of ransoms paid to pirates in 2009 and 2010 at $425 million (Rs 2,200 crore approx). The study pegs the sum at $830 million when costs of negotiations and delivery fees were added.

The average ransom for each ship has gone up. In 2010 it was $5.4 million, compared to $3.4 million in 2009 and $150,000 in 2005, says the study. Already, shipping costs in the Indian Ocean have risen resulting in world economic losses estimated at $7 billion annually.





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