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15 Indians among crew freed after Indian Navy commandos board ship hijacked in Arabian Sea

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NEW DELHI : All 21 crew members, including 15 Indians, on board Liberia-flagged bulk carrier hijacked in the Arabian Sea were safely evacuated by Indian Navy on Friday, after its marine commandos intercepted the vessel and carried out sanitation.

The Navy had earlier said that it has responded to a hijacking attempt on vessel MV Lila Norfolk by engaging its mission-deployed platforms, including its maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) P8I and INS Chennai.

Sanitisation by MARCOs has confirmed absence of the hijackers, a statement by the Navy said and added that “the attempt to hijack was probably abandoned with the forceful warning by the Indian Navy.”

“INS Chennai is in the vicinity of MV and rendering support to restore power generation and propulsion, and commence its voyage to next port of call,” the statement added.

The vessel was understood to be carrying about a dozen Indian crew and had sent a message on the UKMTO portal indicating boarding by around five to six unknown armed personnel on Thursday evening.

“Responding swiftly to the developing situation, Indian Navy launched an MPA and has diverted INS Chennai deployed for Maritime Security Operations to assist the vessel,” the Navy said.

As per the Navy, the aircraft overflew the vessel early Friday morning, established contact and ascertained the safety of the crew. It said that while the naval aircraft continues to monitor the movement of the vessel, INS Chennai is on its way to the hijacked vessel to render assistance.

The overall situation is being closely monitored in coordination with other agencies in the area, it added. “The Indian Navy remains committed to ensuring safety of merchant shipping in the region along with international partners and friendly foreign countries,” the Navy said in its statement.

The latest incident is among a series of maritime incidents in the region in the last month. In December, the Navy had rendered assistance in a piracy incident to a Malta-flagged vessel MV Ruen in the Arabian Sea, at around 700 nautical miles from the Indian coast.

On December 23, a Liberian-flagged merchant vessel, MV Chem Pluto, carrying a crew of 22, including 21 Indians, came under drone attack around 220 nautical miles southwest of Porbandar, while it was on its way to New Mangalore.

The attacks, the Navy said, indicated a shift in maritime incidents closer to the Indian EEZ or exclusive economic zone.

A day after the MV Chem Pluto incident, a Gabon-flagged commercial oil tanker, MV Sai Baba, on its way to India with 25 Indian crew members also came under drone attack in the southern Red Sea, along with another Norwegian-flagged ship.

No casualties were reported in both incidents.

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