Indian Navy Frees Cargo Ship From Somali Pirates After Shootout

Washington — The Indian navy has freed the hijacked MV Ruen cargo ship in Somalia’s Puntland region Saturday after a 24-hour standoff and shootout, and it has detained 35 pirates, according to Puntland Ports Minister Ahmed Yasin Salah. The crew is reported to be unharmed.

The pirates — who allegedly hijacked the Maltese-flagged bulk cargo vessel on December 14 — exchanged heavy gunfire with the Indian navy Friday.

“The Indian navy successfully conducted the operation, which has been going on since last night. The navy captured 35 pirates and released the MV Ruen ship, and its crew are safe,” Salah said.


“We received the information regarding the gunfight Friday afternoon. Once we followed up with our reliable sources, we were told that the Indian navy engaged in a gunfight with the Somali pirates.”


In an interview with VOA Somali, Salah said the pirates on the Ruen had been sailing back and forth across the Somali coast for months, and that the Indians intercepted them Friday, as they approached another pirate-held ship the MV Abdullah.


It was not immediately clear if the Somali pirates were using the hijacked ship MV Ruen to take over the Bangladesh-flagged cargo ship, MV Abdullah.


The MV Abdullah was sailing from Mozambique’s capital Maputo to the United Arab Emirates with a cargo of 55,000 tons of coal when Somali pirates attacked and seized it on the evening of March 12, taking 23 of its crew members hostage.


Quoting an Indian navy spokesperson, Reuters reported Saturday that the Somali pirates opened fire on the Indian navy ship in international waters Friday.

According to the Reuters report, the navy had called on the pirates to surrender and release the vessel and any civilians they may be holding.


Until the Ruen was seized, there had been no successful hijacking of a merchant ship by Somali pirates since 2017.


At least 17 incidents of hijacking, attempted hijacking or suspicious approaches have been recorded by the Indian navy since December, Indian officials have said.


India deployed at least a dozen warships east of the Red Sea in January to provide security against pirates and has investigated more than 250 vessels.


Somalia had for years been blighted by piracy, with the peak being 2011, when the U.N. says more than 160 attacks were recorded off the Somali coast.


The incidents have declined drastically since then, largely because of the presence of American and allied navies in international waters.


A small number of Somalia’s maritime forces have been recently seen conducting patrols in the waters of the Indian Ocean close to Mogadishu, the country’s capital, as part of an ongoing measure by Mogadishu to rebuild its maritime security presence.


In tandem with that effort, Somalia’s executive and legislative branches approved last month a crucial 10-year defense and economic cooperation agreement with Turkey.


Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre said under the agreement, Turkey will build, train and equip the Somali navy and help to remove “any fears of terrorism, piracy, illegal fishing, toxic dumping and any external violations or threats” to Somalia’s sea coast. Somalia has Africa’s longest coastline.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters. 

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