Somalian pirates moving towards India: Coast Guard

New Delhi: Somalian pirates have now started moving towards India and the Government was investigating if they have any links with Pakistan-based terror groups, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) said here today.

ICG Director General Anil Chopra said the pirates, now operating eastwards from their country, posed a threat to all the merchant vessels passing through the high seas between India and the Maldives.

"When piracy is (happening) so close to India, there would be speculation about any such linkages (between them and Pakistan-based groups). Intelligence agencies are investigating all the people who are captured to establish if there is connection between them," he told reporters.

The ICG chief was addressing a press conference on the eve of the 34th Coast Guard foundation day.

The 15 Somalians apprehended from a sunken pirate mothership near Lakshadweep on January 28 are also being interrogated by the agencies concerned in Mumbai.

Chopra said due to increased presence of navies from around the world in the Gulf Of Aden, pirates have extended their area of operation and have started moving eastwards.

"The only place from Africa in that direction is India and the most western part of India is Lakshadweep. They don`t pose any threat to India in particular but against all merchant ships of all nations," he added.

The ICG chief said to thwart any piracy attempts, the Coast Guard along with the Navy has launched the Operation Island Watch along the Lakshadweep Islands.

As part of these operations last week, a Naval Fast Attack Craft (FAC) sunk a pirate mothership named `Prantalay` 75 miles off Lakshadweep saving the 20-member crew of the hijacked vessel on-board and arrested 15 pirates from it.

In the recent past, activities of pirates around Lakshadweep have increased and they were also successful in hijacking a Bangladeshi-flagged merchant vessel about 90 nautical miles off Kochi and 80 nautical miles off Minicoy.

As part of its efforts to counter piracy and enhance coastal security, last month a Coast Guard district headquarters was commissioned in Kavaratti along with a station in Minicoy, both in the Lakshadweep Islands.

Due to this spurt in pirate activity, the Navy had deployed its warships along with Coast Guard vessels in the central Arabian sea.

India has also been deploying its frigates and destroyers in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 and maintains its presence in the troubled waters since then.

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