28 brigands nabbed in another decisive action off Kavaratti; Thai fishing trawler used by them seized

A week after a pirate mother ship was sunk and the sea brigands aboard it were captured by the Navy and the Coast Guard in a joint operation off Lakshadweep, a fresh band of 28 pirates was nabbed in another decisive anti-piracy action by the two forces about 100 nautical miles west of Kavaratti on Sunday.

The maritime forces also seized the pirate-controlled Thai fishing trawler, Prantalay11, and rescued its original crew of 24 Thai and Myanmarese nationals. The operation was led by INS Tir, a first squadron training ship of the Navy attached to the Southern Naval Command, and the Coast Guard Ship Samar. The pirates and the crew are now being taken on board CGS Samar to Mumbai, where they will be handed over to the police for initiating legal action.

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), Mumbai, on Saturday evening, received information that MT Chios, a Greece-flagged crude oil tanker, was being chased by heavily armed pirates about 82 nautical miles west of Suheli Par in the Lakshadweep archipelago. The tanker, on its way from Singapore to Yemen, adopted best management practices and evasive manoeuvres to dodge the skiffs on the prowl. Meanwhile, an armed Dornier maritime reconnaissance aircraft launched from naval air station INS Garuda in the Southern Naval Command spotted the skiffs around 8 p.m. on Saturday and relayed the location coordinates to INS Tir, which was operating in close proximity. As INS Tir kept track of the skiffs, trailing them to their mother ship, CGS Samar joined the action just before daybreak on Sunday.

When the warships ordered the pirates to stop and allow boarding by security personnel, they were fired upon. The warships returned fire, forcing the pirates to wave the white flag, signalling surrender.

As reported by The Hindu earlier, Prantalay 11 is one of the three Prantalays pirated in April last year. Of these, Prantalay 14 perished in a joint operation by the Navy and the Coast Guard last week. Prantalay 12 is still believed to be active around the international shipping lanes close to the Lakshadweep archipelago.

According to a Navy spokesperson, the original crew members, who were being held hostage aboard the trawler, were rescued by the warships. “Prantalay 11 has been taken under tow by CGS Samar, which is now heading for Mumbai with the pirates and the original crew on board,” he said. A Coast Guard spokesperson said that three of the pirates reportedly sustained injuries in the operation.

After navies of various countries embarked on sustained individual and joint task-group operations in the piracy-ridden waters of the Gulf of Aden, the Somali pirates expanded their activity across the Indian Ocean in search of fresh launch points and vulnerable targets. The busy shipping lanes close to Lakshadweep, in particular, has become their favourite hunting ground.

About two months ago, the spurt in pirate action around the archipelago forced the Navy and the Coast Guard to press into action an anti-piracy task group to carry out intensive patrolling in the East Arabian Sea. During this time, the forces also significantly enhanced their presence in the island chain. They also mounted a constant watch over the group's 11 uninhabited landmasses to ensure the security of the islanders and allow safe passage for ships along their routes.

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