India’s navy announced on Tuesday the successful liberation of an Iranian fishing vessel seized by Somali pirates, marking the second rescue operation in as many days amidst heightened threats to Indian Ocean shipping.
The INS Sumitra, a warship, facilitated the safe release of 19 Pakistani crew members along with the Iranian-flagged Al Naeemi fishing vessel, according to a navy spokesperson. The vessel had been hijacked by a group of “11 Somali pirates.”
Photographs released by the navy depicted armed Somali pirates aboard the boat, while another image showed a navy helicopter overhead. Additional pictures captured commandos boarding the fishing boat under cover of darkness and securing the pirates, who were then photographed kneeling with hands bound on the ship’s deck.
The rescue operation unfolded overnight Monday off the Somali coast, approximately 850 nautical miles (1,574 kilometers) west of Kochi, India.
This development followed closely on the heels of another rescue mission by Indian forces, who freed 17 crew members of the Iranian-flagged Iman fishing vessel also seized by Somali pirates just 36 hours earlier.
In a separate incident, commandos from Seychelles successfully liberated the Sri Lankan fishing vessel Lorenzo Putha-4, rescuing its six-man crew. The vessel had been hijacked three days earlier by Somali gunmen about 840 nautical miles (1,555 kilometers) southeast of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.
The resurgence of pirate activity in the Indian Ocean, coupled with attacks by Yemen’s Houthi fighters, has raised concerns among international naval forces. In response, India has intensified its efforts to safeguard maritime security, deploying a significant naval presence off the coast of Somalia since 2008.
India’s navy, with its recent expanded deployment, aims not only to rescue hijacked vessels and their crews but also to prevent the use of fishing vessels as “motherships” for further acts of piracy on larger merchant vessels. Despite its close trade ties with Iran, India has opted not to join the US-led maritime task force in the Red Sea, focusing instead on independent operations to protect international shipping routes.