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Indian, Chinese navies thwart attack on ship by suspected Somali pirates

Somali pirates hijacked of an oil tanker last month, the first commandeering of a vessel since 2012, but released it after a fight with the Puntland marine force.(Representative image) (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons) Photograph: (Others)

WION New Delhi, India Apr 09, 2017, 09.52 AM (IST)

The navies of traditional rivals China and India jointly thwarted an attack on a Tuvalu-flagged merchant ship by suspected Somali pirates, India's defence ministry said on Sunday.

An Indian Navy helicopter undertook aerial reconnaissance of the vessel, while a Chinese Navy ship went on board the vessel, under cover of the Indian Navy helicopter.

The ship, known as OS 35, was reported to be under attack on Saturday.

"An Indian Navy helicopter undertook aerial reconnaissance of the merchant vessel at night, and at sunrise ... (to) ascertain the location of pirates, if still on board," the defence ministry said in a statement. 

"Subsequently ... a boarding party from the nearby Chinese Navy ship went on board the merchant ship, while the Indian Naval helicopter provided air cover for the operation."

The Indian defence ministry said four of its navy ships in the vicinity responded to a distress signal from the ship and reached the bulk carrier early on Sunday.

It said that the crew had taken refuge in the ship's strong room, once they learnt they were under attack, a standard shipping operating procedure during times of attack.

All 19 Filipino crew of the ship were safe and the captain of the ship thanked the Indian Naval ships for their response and for providing air cover, the defence ministry said.

The ship was sailing under navy escort to its next port, John Steed of aid group Oceans Beyond Piracy told Reuters.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which coordinates shipping in the Gulf of Aden area, said on its website the pirates had used a skiff to approach the vessel.

The hijacking is the latest in a series of attempts by Somali pirates to capture cargo vessels since 2012.

It comes days after pirates seized an Indian dhow that was on route to Bossaso from Dubai.|

It was followed by the hijacking of a Pakistani-owned cargo vessel on April 5.

Last month, pirates had captured a Sri Lankan oil tanker, but later released the crew with no conditions. 

A few days later, they caught a large fishing vessel so that they could use it as a floating base to capture even bigger ships.

At their peak in 2011, pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia, according to the International Maritime Bureau, and took hundreds of hostages.

Their actions cost the world economy $7 billion and earned the pirates some $160 million in ransoms, according to the bureau.

(WION with inputs from Reuters)

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