February 26, 2024
Defence & Security

Indian warship frees 36 crew members from Somali pirates

17 Iranian and 19 Pakistani citizens freed

The Indian Navy has rescued two hijacked Iranian-flagged fishing vessels along with 36 crew (17 Iranian and 19 Pakistani) over less than 36 hours and prevented misuse of the fishing vessels as pirate mother ships to target merchant vessels.

The saga began on January 28, 2024, when the Indian warship INS Sumitra responded to a distress call regarding the hijacking of an Iranian-flagged fishing vessel, Iman, off the east coast of Somalia. Somali pirates had commandeered the vessel and taken its crew of 17 Iranian nationals hostage.

INS Sumitra intercepted Iman and rescued the entire crew in the early hours of January 29, 2024. Following the successful operation, Iman was released for onward passage while INS Sumitra swiftly redeployed for subsequent maritime safety operations.

Bak-to-back mission

On January 29, 2024, INS Sumitra located and intercepted another hijacked Iranian-flagged fishing vessel Al Naeemi, in the Southern Arabian Sea, approximately 850 nautical miles west of Kochi.

INS Sumitra was designed and built at Goa Shipyard Limited. Image: Indian Navy

The Somali pirates had taken 19 Pakistani crew members aboard Al Naeemi hostage. Through coercive posturing and the deployment of a naval helicopter and high-speed boats, INS Sumitra compelled the safe release of the crew and the vessel. Confirmatory boarding was conducted to ensure the well-being of the crew previously held captive by the Somali pirates.

INS Sumitra is a Saryu-class patrol vessel designed and constructed at Goa Shipyard Limited.

From INS Hansa, Goa

Meanwhile, in addition to deploying 11 of its warships in the volatile Red Sea, the Indian Navy has stepped up aerial surveillance with long-range maritime patrol Boeing P-81 aircraft over the Red Sea, following persistent attacks on merchant vessels and US and British warships by Yemen-based Houthi militants who are linking their unwarranted attacks to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

The Indian Navy operates 12 multi-mission Boeing P-81 aircraft. Image: Boeing/Indian Navy

P-81 aircraft of the Indian Navy, based at INS Hansa, Dabolim, Goa, are also being deployed to monitor international shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden and the central and northern Arabian Sea to ensure commercial shipping’s safety from land-based pirates.

Nestled in the world-famous tropical beach resort state of Goa, INS Hansa is the Indian Navy’s largest airbase on the western coast of India.

Tourists enjoy the beach in Candolim, Goa. INS Hansa is located south of Candolim. Image: Arnold Pinto

Capable of flying 1,200+ nautical miles, with four hours on station and designed for long-range, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, the P-81 features advanced sensors and weapons systems.

The Indian Navy currently operates a fleet of 12 P-8I aircraft.

Featured image: Indian Navy personnel with the captured Somali pirates aboard the Iranian-flagged fishing vessel Al Naeemi. Image: Indian Navy

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, space, aerospace, aviation, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, fashion, and automotive verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally and protecting the world’s oceans from plastic pollution, overfishing, and climate change. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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