BEIRUT, Lebanon — An Indian warship patrolling the treacherous waters off the Horn of Africa blew up a pirate ship, allegedly after bandits threatened to destroy the naval ship and opened fire, officials said Wednesday.
The Indian Defense Ministry said the Tabar opened fire on a pirate ship after being attacked late Tuesday, leaving the burning vessel to sink. There was no mention of rescuing or capturing its crew.
Indian officials said the Tabar had tried to stop the suspected pirate vessel about 300 miles southwest of the Omani city of Salalah. Instead of allowing the sailors to inspect the ship, the alleged pirates threatened to “blow up the naval warship if it closed on her,” officials said.
“Pirates could be seen roaming on the upper deck of this vessel with guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers,” officials said.
The pirates opened fire, officials said, and the Tabar, a 400-foot warship, fired back. Fire and explosions erupted on board the pirate ship, possibly the result of ammunition going off, the military said.
As the boat sank, some of the pirates escaped on high-speed rafts, the defense ministry said.
More than 90 ships have been hijacked by pirates this year off the Horn of Africa. Since it arrived in the Gulf of Aden this month, the Tabar has escorted about 35 ships through the “pirate-infested” waterway, the Indian government said.
Along with the U.S., Russia and European nations, India is among the naval forces patrolling the Gulf of Aden, a major shipping lane between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
Surging concern over piracy intensified after audacious bandits on Saturday hijacked a 1,000-foot tanker loaded with at least $100 million worth of crude oil and moored it near a pirate’s haven off the coast of Somalia.
The scourge has become a major headache for shippers facing increased insurance and security costs. Already a major Norwegian shipping firm announced that it would no longer sail through the Gulf of Aden, directing its freighters and tankers to take a circuitous route around Africa to avoid the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean to the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula.