This handout photograph taken on January 30, 2024 and released by the Indian Navy shows commandos stand guard with a group of detained pirates. Image Credit: AFP

NEW DELHI: India’s naval forces rescued an Iranian-flagged fishing vessel hijacked by Somali pirates and freed its 19-member Pakistani crew off the east coast of Somalia, a navy statement said on Tuesday.

The rescue operation was the third this week involving Somali pirates and came a day after India’s forces freed another Iranian fishing vessel named Iman and its 17 crew members from Somali pirates in the same waters.

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On Saturday, the Seychelles’ defense forces and coast guard rescued six Sri Lankan fishermen whose vessel had been hijacked by Somali pirates.

The Indian navy’s latest operation rescued the Iranian vessel Al Naeemi from the pirates late Monday. The ship intercepted the vessel and forced the pirates to release the crew and boat, which 11 Somali pirates had boarded, the statement said.

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The navy did not immediately say what happened to the pirates responsible for the hijacking. But it posted images showing 10 pirates with their hands tied behind them and armed Indian naval troops guarding them. Another image showed some armed pirates on the vessel.

The piracy occurred in international waters about 850 nautical miles (1,570 kilometers) west of the Indian coastal city of Kochi.

Amid disruptions in global shipping due to attacks by Yemen-based Al Houthi militants in the Red Sea since November, the Indian navy has ramped up its deployment by sending three guided missile destroyers and reconnaissance aircraft to the vast Indian Ocean.

They have carried out several anti-piracy missions in addition to helping at least four merchant vessels that were attacked in the high waters amid Israel’s war with Hamas.