An Indian dhow that was attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden has been rescued by the counter piracy forces of European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in a coordinated operation. All 14 Indian sailors aboard are reported safe.

According to an EU Navfor communiqué, the pirates who took control of the dhow on Wednesday morning, were forced to abandon it after EU Navfor’s HSwMS Carlskrona of Sweden and Dutch vessel Van Speijk, operating under NATO, came to its rescue.

Pirates have extensively used hijacked dhows as ‘mother ships’ to launch attacks on transiting merchant ships.

EU Navfor spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Jacqueline Sherriff told The Hindu over the telephone that the attack took place some 50 nautical miles north of the Somali coast. “It shows that the spectre of piracy continues to be real. The master of the vessel sent out an alert soon after it was attacked by some 12 pirates. Timely action on the part of the patrolling vessels saved 14 lives,” she said adding the dhow was carrying livestock. She, however, was unsure of its port of origin or destination. She also refused to identify the dhow in line with the policy of EU Navfor.

“Upon hearing the [master’s] alert, Royal Swedish Navy warship HSwMS Carlskrona, which has been part of the EU’s counter piracy mission Operation Atlanta since April 6 closed the scene and as darkness fell, maintained a constant watch on the vessel. As a helicopter from HSwMS Carlskrona overflew the scene, the pirates, now under increasing pressure from the military forces, forced the master to close the Somali coast so they could abandon the vessel in the dead of night,” said the EU Navfor release.

EU Navfor’s Operation Commander Rear Admiral Bob Tarrant said the attack was indicative of the fact that the threat from piracy was very much alive. “What is important is that 14 Indian sailors are now safe and [are] able to return to their families, after what must have been a terrifying ordeal. This latest attack once again shows that the threat from piracy is real. We must all remain vigilant,” he said.

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