Indian Navy intercepts Somali pirates aboard hijacked ship MV Ruen

The pirates are suspected of using the cargo carrier to launch attacks on other ships

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The Indian Navy has intercepted a hijacked cargo ship suspected of being used by Somali pirates as a base for raids on other vessels, a spokesman said on Saturday.

The pirates were aboard the MV Ruen, a Malta-flagged bulk cargo vessel that was taken off the coast of Somalia in December.

During a 40-hour operation, the Indian navy said it intercepted the MV Ruen approximately 482km east of Somalia.

The navy sent the INS Kolkata and a drone to confirm the presence of armed pirates, who shot the drone down and fired at the Indian naval warship.

In response INS Kolkata disabled the ship's steering system and navigational tools, forcing the pirate vessel to stop, the Indian navy said.

Indian marine commandos were flown to the area on Saturday afternoon and were air dropped on to the MV Ruen.

The Indian navy said later the same day that all 35 Somali pirates surrendered and all 17 crew members of the MV Ruen were safely evacuated from the vessel without any injury.

The navy searched the vessel for illegal arms, ammunition and contraband, and said its 37,800 tonnes of cargo, thought to be worth $1 million, will be brought to India.

Pirates may have used the Ruen in the takeover of a Bangladesh-flagged cargo ship, the Abdullah, off the coast of Somalia on Tuesday, the European Union naval force said.

Somali pirates caused disruption in waterways for a decade leading up to 2018, but had been quiet until a resurgence of attacks starting late last year.

The recent spate of attempted hijackings coincided with attacks on commercial shipping in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea by Yemen's Houthi militia, who say their campaign is a response to Israel's war on Gaza.

If confirmed, the attack on the Abdullah from a hijacked ship would mark a return to a strategy used when pirates were very active.

The Ruen was seen sailing eastward 160 nautical miles (296km) south-east of Eyl, Somalia, the British maritime security firm Ambrey said on Thursday.

Ambrey said it was suspected the vessel may be “used as a mother ship to conduct further attacks on merchant vessels” and advised other vessels in the area to increase vigilance.

The capture of the Ruen was the first successful hijacking involving Somali pirates since 2017, when international navies stopped attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

Ransom for the Ruen's kidnapped crew has not been paid, Ambrey said. Media reports said the pirates are holding 17 crew after releasing one for medical reasons.

Data from the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa, the planning and co-ordination centre for EU NAVFOR, show there have been more than 20 hijackings or attempted hijackings of vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin since November.

With reporting from agencies.

Updated: March 17, 2024, 7:19 PM