Fresh attack on ship carrying Indians

Jaswinder Singh Baidwan

Akhran da mureed
Staff member
Mumbai: The crew of an Egyptian freighter including six Indians, released by Somali pirates on Monday, came under renewed attack by the sea brigands on Wednesday as they sailed in the pirate-infested Somali waters on way to a port in Oman.

However, there was no report of any casualty. While the 22-member crew of MV Suez faced threat of being retaken, the Directorate General of Shipping said the Indian Navy is coordinating with other navies for the safe passage of the ship to the Port of Salalah in Oman.

PNS Babur, a Pakistani Navy vessel, which happened to be in the vicinity of MV Suez, is expected to reach the ship soon and escort it to Salalah, DG (Shipping) S B Agnihotri said.

Agnihotri said a fibre glass boat from which pirates fired on M V Suez could not be be detected on the radar as it was very small.

"Usually, chances of a released ship being attacked or taken over again are very rare, but unfortunately such an incident has happened," he said.

Ravinder Singh, 3rd Officer on board MV Suez, which was in captivity for over 10 months, told a private TV news channel that the ship was attacked early this morning.

"We were attacked 2 hours ago by pirates. There were four pirates in the skiff that attacked us. They fired upon us. The attack went on for over 40 minutes. One pirate was injured as we too retaliated with whatever we could lay our hands on. We contacted the numbers of Indian Navy and we did not receive a positive response. We got through to an officer but he disconnected the call. We have not received any response after that," he said.

According to Agnihotri, soon after the attack, it was discovered that PNS Babur was located at a place from where it could reach MV Suez in "4-5 hours". The Pakistani naval ship was therefore roped in to take the merchant ship to safety.

If everything goes as planned, MV Suez will reach Salalah in the early hours tomorrow after which the ship management will take over, he said.

Meanwhile, anxious relatives of the Indian sailors vent their anger over the fresh threat faced by their kin following renewed assault by the pirates.

"Does the government have no shame? If they have any shame and any empathy for the Indian sailors, they should bring my husband back. I was so happy to learn about by husband's release yesterday, but today I began contemplating suicide," said Madhu Sharma, wife of an Indian sailor.

Sampa Arya, wife of another sailor, demanded that the Indian government send a Navy ship to escort MV Suez to safety.

"Just a minute ago my husband called me saying that they have received a mail from the owner. The owner said he is trying to communicate with the Indian Navy and is getting a negative response from them. Also that they are not willing to discuss any security issue. In these circumstances what do I do? I have asked him to send me that mail on my ID. So that I can show that they have been freed, at least now they should not be so cruel," she said.

Somali pirates had freed 22 crew members, including six Indians and four Pakistanis, of the hijacked vessel after a ransom of USD 2.1 million was paid to them.

Leading Pakistani rights activist and former federal minister Ansar Burney was involved in prolonged negotiations with the pirates and raised money to be paid as ransom.

The hostages, including six Indians, four Pakistanis, 11 Egyptians and a Sri Lankan, were released on Monday after a protracted ordeal during which the pirates frequently threatened to kill them if ransom was not paid.

According to Pakistani captain of the ship Mohammad Wasi, the pirates had given several deadlines and extended them as they were told that the money was being arranged.

Wasi said 40 to 50 armed pirates would always guard the hostages, who survived on only rice and pulses and drank rain water during their 10-month nightmare. Most of the hostages were sick.