Kochi: The Indian Navy struck a major blow against marauding Somali pirates when it intercepted a 'mother vessel' of Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea about 600 nautical miles off Kochi and rescued 13 crew members apart from nabbing 61 pirates. The capture and release of such a large number of pirates and captive fishermen is probably the single biggest success recorded in the anti-piracy campaign so far.
Naval ships and aircraft in the area are still carrying out search operations for missing fishermen or pirates who would have jumped out of the 'mother vessel' when it caught fire.
According to an official release, the operation was executed by fast attack craft (FAC) INS Kalpeni based at the southern naval command, Kochi last Saturday night (12 March).
The intercepted 'mother vessel' called Vega 5 is a 24-metre-long trawler owned by the Mozambican company Efripel which was hijacked by Somali pirates on 28 December. Vega 5 has been destroyed in the operation.
According to naval officials, the operation began when they received a distress call from MV Vancouver Bridge which was under pirate attack on Friday last. A naval Dornier maritime recce aircraft located Vega 5 in the area. Seeing the naval aircraft, the pirates abandoned their attack and tried to flee. While the Dornier continued to track the pirate mother vessel Vega 5, the Navy's missile corvette Khukri and FAC Kalpeni, already deployed in the area for anti-piracy operations, were diverted to intercept and investigate Vega 5, the navy said.
The pirate mother vessel launched two skiffs which fired at Kalpeni, which was closing in on Vega 5. INS Kalpeni responded with limited firing which resulted in a fire breaking out on Vega 5. The fire may have been a result of additional fuel drums that mother vessels normally stock on board to fuel their attacking skiffs.