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India sends warship after hijacking of Liberian-flagged vessel in Arabian Sea

In World
January 05, 2024

NEW DELHI -An Indian Navy warship was moving towards a hijacked Liberian-flagged vessel in the Arabian Sea, and aircraft were closely monitoring the situation, the Indian Navy said on Friday.

At least 15 Indian crew members were on board the MV Lila Norfolk, which was hijacked near Somalia’s coast and the navy received information about it on Thursday evening, Indian news agency ANI, in which Reuters has a minority stake, reported earlier, citing military officials.

The ship sent a message on the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) portal saying five to six unknown armed personnel had boarded on the evening of Jan. 4, the Indian navy statement said.

The ship was 460 nautical miles east of the Somalian coast when it sent the message, the UKMTO noted.

An Indian warship, the INS Chennai, was diverted and deployed to assist the vessel, the statement said, adding that a naval aircraft overflew the hijacked vessel on Friday and had established contact with it.

The Indian navy has increased its surveillance of the Arabian Sea after a recent spate of attacks in the region.

The hijacking of commercial ships and attempted hijackings by suspected pirates near the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea regions resumed in December after a six-year lull. Experts believe this is because naval forces led by the U.S. have diverted their attention to the Red Sea to thwart Houthi attacks.

Data from the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region shows at least three hijackings in December. The previous such incident was reported in 2017.

“The sudden revival in ship hijacking and attacks can only be attributed to the pirates’ willingness to take advantage of the fact that the focus of anti-piracy maritime forces has largely shifted from the Gulf of Eden to the Red Sea,” Abhijit Singh, head of the Maritime Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation think tank in New Delhi said.

Earlier this week, the navy said it had investigated a large number of fishing vessels and boarded vessels of interest in the North and Central Arabian Sea.

“India plays the role of a net security provider in the entire Indian Ocean region. We will ensure that maritime trade in this region rises from the sea to the heights of the sky,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said last month of the increased surveillance in the region.

India is not part of the U.S.-led Red Sea task force. REUTERS

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