Indian Navy and Coast Guard vessels captured a pirate mother ship, complete with buccaneers and hostages, after a firefight around a 100 nautical miles off Kavaratti in Lakshadweep, in the early hours of Sunday.
A statement issued by the navy said 28 pirates were forced to surrender to the Indian vessels, after INS Tir of the Southern Naval Command (SNC) was deployed to locate and engage the pirates ‘who had carried out an aborted attack on the Greek merchantman MV Chios at about 1600 hours on Saturday’.
Dornier aircraft from the SNC located the skiff and the mother ship around four hours later and passed on their coordinates to INS Tir, a cadet training vessel, which arrived in the vicinity and tracked the pirate boats till the early hours of Sunday to ‘ensure proper identification’.
Indian CGS Samar converged on the spot at 0500 hours and the pirate vessels were asked to stop and prepare to be boarded.
The pirates on the skiffs fired in response. The mother ship, Prantalay 11 too was asked to stop, following which the pirates fired again, ‘upon which the Navy and Coast Guard ship fired for effect’.
The pirates then hoisted the white flag and ‘a mix of pirates and crew-members who were being held hostage aboard the trawler were apprehended by INS Tir and CGS Samar and transferred to CGS Samar’. “The Coast Guard Ship is now en route to Mumbai with 28 Pirates and 24 Thai fishermen with Prantalay 11 – under tow,” says the navy.
According to the Indo-Asian News Service, the Prantalay 11 is a sister vessel of the fishing trawler, Prantalay 14, which was sunk by the navy about 10 days ago in the Arabian Sea, after it had been commandeered by pirates and was being used as a mother ship.
Prantalay 11 was first captured by pirates on April 18, 2010 about 1,200 miles from the Somali coast, close to the Maldives, along with Prantalay 14 and Prantalay 12, with 77 hostages. All three vessels operated out of Djibouti in the Red Sea.
As of January-end, Prantalay 11 and Prantalay 12 had been reported to be in position off the coast of Somalia, and according to one report, were captured while fishing illegally in Indian waters. The report also claims the vessels had no license from the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. Both vessels are already reported to have been used for hijacking other merchant vessels.