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India to prosecute Somali pirates for ship hijacking

India to prosecute Somali pirates for ship hijacking
A cargo ship sails through the town of Ismailia, Egypt, March 30, 2021 (File photo)   -  
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Ayman Aref/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.


India will prosecute 35 Somali pirates arrested during an operation to free a hijacked vessel off Somalia on Saturday, a navy official said. 

The men are due to arrive in India on Saturday where they will be handed over to law enforcement. 

India was previously only concentrating on freeing hijacked vessels and abandoning the disarmed pirates at sea without charging them. The navy official did not state what charges will be brought against the men. 

On Saturday, the Indian navy managed to seize the Malta-flagged commercial ship MV Ruen which had been comandeered by pirates in the Northern Arabian Sea on December 14. 

The event was the first hijacking of a commercial ship by Somali pirates since 2017. At the peak of their activity in 2011, somali pirate activity cost the global economy an estimated $7 billion. 

Since December, India has deployed about a dozen boats to police the Gulf of Aden to stop Houthi attacks on commercial ships with ties to Israel.

The Houthis who govern most of Yemen have vowed to continue targeting ships transiting the Gulf of Aden until Isreal stops what they have termed as a genocide in Gaza. 

More on the freed vessel

The Indian navy said late Saturday that it had taken control of a bulk carrier hijacked by Somali pirates and evacuated the 17 crew members on the vessel.

In a statement on X, the navy said all 35 pirates on board the Maltese-flagged MV Ruen had surrendered and the vessel was checked for illegal arms, ammunition and contraband. The whole operation took about 40 hours and involved drones, navy vessels and marine commandos.

The development came after men on the bulk carrier fired at an Indian warship in international waters Friday, triggering the navy to intercept the vessel some 2,600 kilometers (1,615 miles) off the Indian coast.

The vessel was first boarded by pirates Dec. 14 near the Yemeni island of Socotra, around 240 kilometers (150 miles) off Somalia.

Activity from Somali pirates has dropped in recent years, but there has been growing concern it could resume amid the political uncertainty and wider chaos in the region that has included attacks on ships by Yemen's Houthi rebels.

Earlier this week, a Bangladesh-flagged cargo ship with 23 crew members was hijacked by pirates off Somalia. A European Union vessel was tracking the ship, the EU's maritime security force said Wednesday.

India recently began to flex its its naval power in international waters, including anti-piracy patrols and a widely publicized deployment close to the Red Sea to help protect ships from attacks during Israel’s war with Hamas.

The navy has helped at least four merchant vessels that were attacked in high seas by Houthi forces. Indian forces include three guided missile destroyers and reconnaissance aircraft.

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