The Navy did not specify whether the hijackers had gained control of the ship at any point

All 21 crew members, including Indians, aboard the cargo ship, ‘MV Lila Norfolk’, that was hijacked late last evening near the coast of Somalia have been rescued and are safe, said officials.

The Navy deployed a warship, maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters and P-8I and long-range aircraft and Predator MQ9B drones following a hijacking distress call involving the 84,000-tonne bulk carrier that had been boarded by five or six “unknown armed personnel” on Thursday evening.

The elite commandos, MARCOS, sanitised the cargo ship in the Arabian Sea and rescued the 15 Indians from the ship’s citadel – a fortified section of commercial vessels used as a refuge during pirate attacks. The commandos have confirmed the absence of hjijackers on the ship, said the Navy in a statement.

“All 21 crew including 15 Indians onboard the vessel were safely evacuated from the citadel,” Indian Navy’s spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said.

“Sanitisation by MARCOS commandos has confirmed the absence of the hijackers. The attempt of hijacking by the pirates was probably abandoned with the forceful warning by Indian Navy’s maritime patrol aircraft of interception by naval warship,” the spokesperson added.

Naval warship INS Chennai, a navy destroyer, that was diverted from its anti-piracy patrol, launched its helicopter and issued warning to pirates to abandon the hijacked vessel.

The Navy added that the warship was working to restore power and propulsion to allow the Liberian-flagged bulk carrier to continue to its next port of call.

It did not specify whether the hijackers had gained control of the ship at any point but said earlier that an overhead patrol flight had confirmed the safety of the crew on Friday morning.

Steve Kunzer, chief executive of the vessel’s Dubai-based owners Lila Global, thanked the Indian Navy for the rescue.

“We also want to thank the professionalism of our crew who reacted safely and responsibly under the circumstances,” he said in a statement.

The hijacking was reported by the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), a British military organisation that tracks movements of various vessels in strategic waterways.

Naval warship INS Chennai, a navy destroyer, that was diverted from its anti-piracy patrol, launched its helicopter and issued warning to pirates to abandon the hijacked vessel.

Last month the Navy deployed several warships into the sea to “maintain a deterrent presence” after a string of recent shipping attacks, including a drone attack near India’s coast blamed on Iran by the United States.

The latest attack comes at a time when many vessels have been rerouted from the Red Sea, where Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have carried out drone and missile attacks in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is battling Hamas.

Last month a drone attack hit the MV Chem Pluto tanker 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) off the coast of India.


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