Navy seizes mother ship with 61 pirates

Associated Press
Tuesday 15 March 2011 01:00

The Indian navy has captured 61 pirates who jumped into the Arabian Sea to escape a gunfight and fire aboard a hijacked ship. The two naval vessels rescued 13 crew members from the seized fishing boat, 695 miles off Kochi in southern India.

The pirates had hijacked the Mozambique-flagged Vega 5 in December and used it as a base for staging several attacks in the waters between East Africa and India. A patrol aircraft spotted the mother ship on Friday while responding to a vessel reporting a pirate attack, a navy statement said.

The pirates aborted the hijacking attempt and tried to escape in the mother ship, but the Indian navy closed in on Sunday night. The pirates fired on them, and the hijacked vessel was set ablaze when the navy returned fire.

The pirates and the kidnapped crew members jumped into the sea from the burning vessel, and were rescued by the Indian sailors, who took them all to Mumbai.

The pirates were carrying about 80 to 90 small arms or rifles and a few heavier weapons. The statement did not describe any casualties among the navy, the fishermen or the pirates in Sunday's clash.

The navy said it was checking whether the pirates were from Somalia or Yemen.

Piracy has plagued the shipping industry off East Africa for years, but violence and ransom demands have escalated in recent months.

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