Mumbai: 'Hijacked' cargo ship captured by Navy



Mumbai: Braving adverse weather condition, the Navy captured a 'hijacked' Iranian flagged cargo vessel, with nine persons on board, off the Mumbai coast following intelligence inputs that it may be carrying arms, ammunition and contraband, officials said on Monday.

Two AK-47 rifles and a pistol were recovered from the ship, they said.

'Nafis-1', which may have been hijacked, had five Yemenis, two Tanzanians, one Kenyan and one Somalian on board, defence spokesperson Manohar Nambiar said.

"It is not yet clear whether all of them are crew members on this Iranian-flagged vessel, whether all are pirates or only some of them are pirates. All of them have been detained," he said.

"The persons on board are also giving different versions, because of which, the confusion pertains if the ship was hijacked or not," Nambiar added.

According to the Navy officials, vessel was intercepted yesterday, following intelligence inputs. Two AK -47 rifles and a pistol, concealed in an empty fuel tank of the ship, have been found, they said.

Intelligence inputs suggested that the vessel had sailed from Chah Bahar in Iran to an undisclosed location in July.

The inputs had also indicated that the vessel could have been employed for smuggling or other nefarious activities and carrying arms and ammunition, as well as other contraband.

The officials said that the 500-tonne general cargo vessel was detected on Friday, at a distance of about 250 nautical miles by an Indian Naval Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft 'IL 38 SD', which was on a surveillance mission in the East Arabian sea.

Subsequently, INS Mysore, a guided missile destroyer, was sent to intercept the vessel, along with two helicopters and 24 marine commandos, the officials said.

The Indian ship reached near the vessel on Saturday and initially shadowed the vessel, in order to carry out a full assessment of her threat potential, they added.

At the same time, the matter was deliberated at the highest level, and a decision to carry out interdiction of the vessel was made on Sunday, they said.

Despite adverse weather conditions and rough seas, with wave heights of the order of 4 to 5 metres, INS Mysore launched a swift and co-ordinated operation and there was no resistance from anybody on the vessel.

Thereafter, the marine commandos (MARCOS) swiftly laid siege to the vessel by slithering operations conducted from the ship's Chetak and Sea King 42 C helicopters, the officials said.

The MARCOS carried out a thorough investigation of all the compartments of the vessel and found two AK-47 rifles and a pistol concealed in an empty fuel tank, they added.

The persons on the vessel have been put under custody in a secure compartment.

INS Mysore has started towing Nafis-1 to Porbandar, where the person on board and ship will be handed over the local police and other investigating agencies for carrying out further interrogation.

PTI