Indian And Seychelles Forces Separately Rescue Two Fishing Boats Hijacked By Somali Pirates

This photograph provided by the Indian Navy shows an Iranian fishing vessel named, Iman, that was hijacked by pirates after the same was intercepted by the navy off the east coast of Somalia, Monday, Jan.29, 2024. 
The Indian navy said Monday, it freed the vessel as well as all the 17 crew members who had been taken as hostages by the pirates. (Indian Navy via AP)
This photograph provided by the Indian Navy shows an Iranian fishing vessel named, Iman, that was hijacked by pirates after the same was intercepted by the navy off the east coast of Somalia, Monday, Jan.29, 2024. The Indian navy said Monday, it freed the vessel as well as all the 17 crew members who had been taken as hostages by the pirates. (Indian Navy via AP)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Indian and Seychelles forces separately rescued Monday two fishing vessels hijacked by Somali pirates and freed 23 crew members from Iran and Sri Lanka, both countries said in statements.

The Seychelles’ defense forces and coast guard rescued six Sri Lankan fishermen whose vessel was hijacked by Somali pirates two days earlier while the Indian navy said it freed 17 crew members in an Iranian fishing vessel that was hijacked by pirates off the east coast of Somalia.

The Seychelles Défense Forces Special Forces and coast guard “led a successful operation to regain control of a Sri Lankan vessel hijacked by armed Somali pirates,” the president's office said in a statement.

The three hijackers were arrested, and the fishermen and their boat were safe and being taken to the Seychelles, according to Susantha Kahawatta, a top official in the Fisheries Department of Sri Lanka. He said the Sri Lankan envoy to the Seychelles told him of the successful rescue operation.

The hijacking came two weeks after Sri Lanka said it would join a U.S.-led operation to protect merchant vessels sailing in the Red Sea against attacks by Yemen-based Houthi rebels. Other suspected hijackings in waters off Somalia have raised concern that Somali pirates have resumed activity a decade after they caused chaos in international shipping.

The piracy occurred in international waters about 840 nautical miles (1,555 kilometers) east of Somalia, 1,100 nautical miles (2,040 kilometers) from Sri Lanka and north of the Seychelles, according to Sri Lankan navy spokesperson Capt. Gayan Wickramasuriya.

Sri Lankan officials had informed all countries in the region about the hijacking.

“The Seychelles coast guard was also on alert and when the hijackers entered their waters, the Seychelles coast guard arrested the hijackers, took control of the boat and released the fishermen and the vessel, which are now being taken to a port in the Seychelles,” Kahawatta said.

On Saturday, an armed group arrived in an area where about 30 Sri Lankan vessels were fishing. Two to three armed men who had arrived in a 23-meter (75-foot) vessel boarded the fishing trawler, fired shots apparently to warn away the other fishing boats and took away the trawler and the fishermen, Kahawatta said.

Fishermen in the other trawlers who identified the attackers as Somali recalled the details of the abduction, Kahawatta said.

Sri Lanka's navy said two weeks ago it would provide a ship to protect merchant ship traffic, but the date hasn't been set and the area Sri Lanka will patrol hasn't been finalized.

Separately on Monday, the Indian navy said it freed an Iranian fishing vessel that was hijacked by pirates off the east coast of Somalia.

India’s navy wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that the fishing vessel named Iman had been boarded by pirates and its crew taken hostage. It said the naval force freed all 17 crew members along with the boat.

The fishing vessel was later "released for onward transit,” it said.

The Indian navy did not immediately say what had happened to the pirates responsible for the hijacking.

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This story corrects the attribution for the arrest of the hijackers to the Sri Lankan Fisheries Office.