For the first time, an Ethiopian and 14 Somalian pirates will face charges under Indian law for attempting to hijack a foreign ship and attacking an Indian naval warship near the Minicoy Isles, off the south-west coast of the country, a police official said Monday.
The pirates, who had jumped off their mother ship after it was destroyed by the navy, were rescued from the sea and brought to Mumbai on Monday morning.
“They have been arrested under various Indian laws which they have violated. They have all been sent for a medical check-up and shall be presented before a magistrate for remand Tuesday,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Coastal Security) Khalid Quaiser told IANS.
The pirates have been booked under Indian Penal Code Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 363 (kidnapping), 148 (rioting with armed deadly weapons), and different sections of the Passport Act, he added.
They had attempted to board and attack a Bahamas-flagged vessel MV (Merchant Vessel) Verdi last Friday which sent out an SOS alerting the Indian Coast Guard unit at Kochi, in Kerala, and the Indian Navy.
As a Coast Guard aircraft reached the scene, the pirate vessel commandeered Thai trawler Prantalay and attempted to escape.
It also exchanged gunfire with an Indian Water Jet Propelled Fast Attack Craft (WJFACs), INS Cankarso, which was patrolling the waters, but subsequently caught fire and sank. The 15 pirates and 20 Thai and Myanmarese crew members, who were held hostages, jumped into the sea and were rescued by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard.
Meanwhile, Indian security agencies are also examining possible terror links of the captured Somali pirates with Pakistan-based terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The suspicion comes in the wake of increased pirate attacks on merchant vessels passing through the sea lanes close to the Indian coast. Indian Coast Guard Director General Vice Admiral Anil Chopra told reporters on Monday that it was but natural that there would be speculation about terror linkages when the pirates were operating so close to India in the recent months.
“When there is piracy so close to India, there is bound to be speculation whether there are any linkages between these pirates and the terror groups. When we catch people, our first attempt is to see if there is any established link between them and terrorists,” Chopra said.