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India warns of crackdown as pirates hunt near coast

mohit=ndia on Thursday warned of an increased threat to shipping off its southwest coast, as 28 suspected Somali pirates were brought to Mumbai for questioning. Coastguard Inspector General SPS Basra said there had been a rise in pirate attacks on merchant vessels within 250-300 nautical miles (450-550kilometres) of India in recent months and shipping had been warned to steer clear of danger areas.
"Indian Navy and Coastguard are sparing no effort to thwart any such activity in Indian waters and will continue to deal with such incidents decisively with an iron fist to keep our waters safe and secure," Basara said in a statement.
His warning came as 28 Somalis suspected of hijacking a Thai fishing vessel and using it as a "mothership" to launch attacks in the Indian Ocean were paraded before the media on a coastguard ship moored off Mumbai.
The men were sitting on deck with their hands and feet shackled and muslin cloths covering their heads and faces.
They were detained last Sunday after a Greek-flagged ship reported coming under attack off the Indian coast. The navy operation freed 24 Thai and Myanmar nationals held captive since the boat was seized off Djibouti in April last year.
Officials said the suspected pirates had 19 AK-47 assault rifles, two pistols, a rocket launcher and a shoulder-held grenade launcher when they were intercepted by navy and coastguard patrols.
Experts have said merchant shipping is increasingly at risk off India's coast as pirates seek to avoid international naval patrols in the treacherous waters off the Horn of Africa.
A similar incident led to the capture of 15 suspected pirates near the Lakshadweep Islands off the coast of Kerala state, southwest India, on January 28.
Twelve Somalis, two Ethiopians and a Kenyan are now facing trial on charges including attempted murder in India. Basra said three "piracy attack groups" were still active off India.

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