Captured Somali pirates arrive in India to face trial over ship hijacking

The 35 men are to be prosecuted for the hijacking of cargo vessel MV Ruen in December when they took the crew hostage.


India has brought 35 captured Somali pirates to Mumbai to stand trial, days after its navy recaptured a hijacked bulk carrier and rescued several hostages.

The destroyer INS Kolkata, which led the rescue operation, docked in India’s financial capital early on Saturday, a navy statement said.

The hijacking of the Maltese-flagged MV Ruen in December, east of Socotra in the northern Arabian Sea, was the first time since 2017 that any cargo vessel had been successfully boarded by Somali pirates.

Indian naval commandos took control of the vessel on March 17, some 260 nautical miles (480 kilometres) off the coast of Somalia, and rescued 17 crew members – nine from Myanmar, seven from Bulgaria and one from Angola.

The Somalis are expected to be transferred to police custody later on Saturday.

At the peak of Somali pirate attacks in 2011, the navy used to prosecute and jail in India those involved. But in recent months the navy has taken to recapturing vessels and rescuing crew but leaving the disarmed pirates at sea.

Navy spokesman Vivek Madhwal said this week that this marked the first time in more than a decade that pirates captured at sea would be brought to Indian shores to face trial.

Under India’s anti-piracy laws, the men could face the death sentence if they are convicted of a killing or an attempted killing, and life imprisonment for piracy alone.

Last Saturday’s rescue was the culmination of a 40-hour operation. Commandos parachuted out of a military C-17 aeroplane to board the vessel in an assault that “successfully cornered and coerced” all 35 pirates on board to surrender, an earlier navy statement said.

Bulgarian vessel owner Navibulgar called India’s rescue a “major success”.

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