NEW DELHI - It was an anti-piracy operation with a twist in the tale: Instead of arresting the eight brigands who were attempting to board a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden, Indian Navy commandos seized their weapons, emptied their skiff of its fuel and set it adrift, leaving the tidying up to another warship.
About 225 nautical miles east of Aden Thursday, as visibility dropped to less than two nautical miles, the guided missile stealth frigate INS Talwar that is currently patrolling the piracy-infested Gulf of Aden received a distress call from the Liberian-registered MV Maud, with 10 Indian crew on board, saying a skiff with eight armed men on board was approaching at high speed, an official here said Friday.
The Indian warship immediately responded to the distress call and advised the vessel to increase speed and carry out evasive manoeuvres to avoid getting boarded. Simultaneously, a helicopter with marine commandos took off and started closing in on the threatened vessel, a senior Indian Navy official said.
The commandos noticed that the brigands had thrown a rope ladder and were attempting to board the Maud from just off the bow.
The visibility being low, it was possible that the pirates may not have sighted the warship and the helicopter. The helicopter crew fired warning shots to deter the pirates from boarding the ship, the official added.
Following this, the two pirates who were attempting to clamber up the merchant vessel fell into the water. Commandos from the warship thereafter boarded the skiff and confiscated the weapons and other equipment from the pirates.
Then, fearing further piracy attacks due to the low visibility, the commandos emptied the skiff of its fuel and set it adrift as INS returned to her patrolling duties while warships from other navies arrived on the scene for follow up action, the official said.
In response to the timely action of the Indian warship, the Indian master of MV Maud, Captain Manpreet Singh Dhaliwal, sent a message expressing his gratitude.
From available records, this may be the first instance of a piracy attempt being thwarted when the brigands were in the process of boarding a merchant ship, an Indian Navy statement said.
Overall, this is the fifth successful action of the Indian Navy against the pirates in the region.
On December 13 last year, the guided missile destroyer INS Mysore foiled an attack on an Ethiopian merchant vessel and arrested 23 Somali and Yemeni pirates in the Gulf of Aden. Before that, on November 18, the stealth frigate INS Tabar had sunk a Somali pirate vessel after coming under attack.
On Nov 8, the Tabar had repulsed an attack by pirates to hijack two ships - an Indian and a Saudi Arabian merchant vessel.
Earlier this month, the Indian Navy thwarted a piracy bid off the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean Region.