NEW DELHI, India – An Indian naval vessel sank a suspected pirate “mother ship” Wednesday in the Gulf of Aden and chased two attack boats into the night, officials said, in a day of escalating violence in the lawless seas.
Separate bands of pirates seized a Thai ship with 16 crew members and a Iranian cargo vessel with a crew of 25 in the area, where Somalia-based pirates appear to be attacking ships at will, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Malaysia.
“It’s getting out of control,” Choong said.
A multicoalition naval force has increased patrols in the region, and scored a rare success Tuesday when the Indian warship, operating off the coast of Oman, stopped a ship similar to a pirate vessel mentioned in numerous piracy bulletins. The Indian navy said the pirates fired on the INS Tabar after the officers asked it to stop to be searched.
“Pirates were seen roaming on the upper deck of this vessel with guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers,” said a statement from the Indian navy. Indian forces fired back, sparking fires and a series of onboard blasts — possibly due to exploding ammunition — and destroying the ship.
They chased one of two speedboats that had been shadowing the larger ship, and which fled when it sank. One was later found abandoned. The other escaped, according to the statement.
Larger “mother ships” are often used to take gangs of pirates and smaller attack boats into deep water, and can be used as mobile bases to attack merchant vessels.
Last week, Indian navy commandos operating from a warship foiled a pirate attempt to hijack a ship in the Gulf of Aden. The navy said an armed helicopter with marine commandos prevented the pirates from boarding and hijacking the Indian merchant vessel.
Tuesday incidents raised to eight the number of ships hijacked this week alone, he said. Since the beginning of the year, 39 ships have been hijacked in the Gulf of Aden, out of 95 attacked.
“There is no firm deterrent, that’s why the pirate attacks are continuing,” Choong said. “The criminal activities are flourishing because the risks are low and the rewards are extremely high.”