Indian Navy questioned on Somali pirate ship sinking


New Delhi : The sinking by the Indian Navy of a Somali pirate “mother ship” in the international waters off the Gulf of Aden took a curious turn Tuesday with a Thai company claiming the vessel that went down was a trawler it owned.

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The Indian Navy, however, stuck to its guns, saying that its stealth frigate INS Tabar patrolling the region sunk the vessel in retaliatory fire after it was first fired upon Nov 18.

The huge fireball that erupted from the vessel after INS Tabar hit it action clearly proved that a large amount of ammunition was on board, Indian Navy spokesman Commander Nirad Sinha maintained.

Wicharn Sirichaiekawat, the owner of the Ekawat Nava 5, however, had a different story to tell.

He told a Indian TV news channel that the vessel was bound from Oman to Yemen to deliver fishing equipment when it was boarded by pirates near the Somali coast.

According to Wicharn, the pirates were taking control of the ship when the INS Tabar arrived on the scene and engaged in combat after being fired upon.

He claimed that 14 sailors were still missing and one crewmember was killed in the INS Tabar assault.

Wicharn said he heard about the incident from a Cambodian crew member who survived and drifted in the ocean for six days before being rescued by a passing vessel and was now recuperating in a hospital in Yemen.

Commander Sinha would have none of this.

“The Indian Navy’s stand is very clear. We were first fired upon and then we fired back in self-defence. The vessel was laden with a large quantity of ammunition as shown by the pictures (of the incident),” Sinha told IANS.

“Gun-totting pirates threatened to blow us up in international waters. So, this is an involvement in an act of piracy and we acted in self-defence,” he added.

The Indian Navy earned tremendous accolades after the incident. It also said it had received informal clearance from the government to conduct “hot pursuit” raids against Somali pirates if the situation warranted.

The navy said it would beef up its presence in the region by despatching a guided missile destroyer and was even contemplating aerial reconnaissance flights in the area.