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Indian Navy Corners Pirates and Rescues Bulker After Months of Captivity

March 18 ------ The Indian Navy has continued its aggressive support of shipping in the Red Sea reporting two interactions with Somali pirates and today successfully rescued 17 crewmembers that have been in captivity for three months. The action also likely prevented further piracy incidents as the bulker Ruen had been taken into the Indian Ocean to apparently serve as a mothership for the privates.  


Security forces warned on Thursday that the Navibulgar vessel Ruen (41,600 dwt, registered in Malta) which was captured on December 14 had departed Somalia heading east into the Indian Ocean. Yesterday, March 15, the Indian Navy’s Long Range Maritime Patrol reported it was able to intercept the Ruen underway some 260 nautical miles east of Somalia in the Indian Ocean. What ensued was a 40-hour mission that included the air drop of elite commandos. 


The pirates aboard the bulker “opened fire on the warship,” the Indian Navy reports, but the Navy was able to corner the bulker with the pirates aboard. The Indian vessels Kolkata and Subhadra, along with remotely piloted aircraft and a team of elite marine commandos air-dropped by C-17 aircraft, were able to successfully confront the bulker with the pirates aboard. The pirates shot down one of the Navy's drones. “The pirates onboard the vessel have been called upon to surrender and release the vessel and any civilians they may be holding against their will,” the Navy spokesperson reported. Only saying “thought concerted actions,” and that they “coerced” the pirates to surrender, the Navy reports it retook control of the Ruen. A total of 35 pirates surrendered to the Navy and the 17 crewmembers aboard the vessel were released without injuries. The Navy reports the Ruen “has been sanitized for the presence of illegal arms, ammunition, and contraband.” 


Prior to this engagement, the Indian Navy was also able to locate another seized bulker, the Bangladeshi vessel Abdullah (58,000 dwt) on March 12. They reported that the pirates did not respond to attempts at communication. On March 14, they were able to photograph the Abdullah and reported shadowing the vessel until it entered Somali waters. Unconfirmed reports from the media in Bangladesh said shots had been fired and the warship withdrew fearing for the safety of the crew aboard the bulker. 


The rescue of the Ruen marks the second successful rescue by the Indian Navy against Somali pirates. On January 5, an elite team of commandos from the Indian Navy stormed the Lila Norfolk, a 170,000 dwt bulker registered in Liberia that had also been commandeered by pirates. The team sanitized the vessel and confirmed that the pirates had abandoned the ship after the Indian warship arrived. In a similar incident in late November 2023, American forces were also able to scare away and apprehend pirates that boarded the product tanker Central Park in the Red Sea. 


A moderate danger of further piracy incidents however remains according to a warning from the EUNAVFOR operation Atalanta and the Maritime Security Center for the Horn of Africa. They highlighted a recent surge in reported events that could potentially escalate into piracy off the Somali coast. They highlighted that in addition to the Ruen and the Abdullah, 18 dhows have been hijacked in recent weeks. Up to seven they believed may still be in the hands of captors. Further, they estimate that four pirate action groups are operating and note that several possible pirate camps have been identified near Garacad, Somalia. 


Significant attacks on merchant vessels have occurred they warned within 12 days after reports of dhow hijackings. The warning says that multiple skiffs each carrying armed individuals set off from Somalia on March 13. They were also concerned that the Ruen would be used as a mothership, but the successful Indian action has removed that one threat, while the warning remains for ships to use caution in the region due to the increased risks. 



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