An Indian warship dedicated to fighting pirates along Somalia's coast destroyed a ship that had opened fire in an attempted attack in the Gulf of Aden, the navy said Wednesday.
The attack late Tuesday came the same day that pirates hijacked a Thai ship and an Iranian bulk cargo carrier off the coast, the navy said in a statement. It came three days after pirates seized a towering Saudi supertanker, reported AP.
The INS Tabar, which is patrolling Somalia's coast for buccaneers, approached the ship 285 nautical miles southwest off Salalah, Oman, and asked it to stop to be searched, according to the navy statement.
The vessel appeared to be a "mother vessel" loaded with food, diesel and water and had two speed boats in tow. Naval officers could see men roaming the ship's deck with rocket propelled grenade launchers and guns, the statement said.
The pirates threatened to blow up the warship and then opened fire, the navy said.
The INS Tabar returned fire, sparking explosions and a fire and destroying the suspected "mother vessel" pirate ship, according to the navy. The Indian ship chased one of the speed boats, which was later found abandoned, while the other escaped.
Lt. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the 5th Fleet in Bahrain said the U.S. Navy had no reports of an incident involving an Indian ship in the Gulf of Aden.
Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said he was not aware of the Indian navy's claim.
The incident marks the third attack that the INS Tabar has fended off since it began its anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden on Nov. 2. Naval commandos flying in a helicopter foiled an attempt to hijack an Indian merchant ship on Nov. 11.
Raiders hijacked a Thai ship with 16 crew members on Tuesday, the same day a major Norwegian shipping group ordered its tankers to sail around Africa rather than use the Suez Canal because pirates had seized the Saudi supertanker.
The U.S. and other naval forces decided against intervening in the seizure of the tanker, which was carrying $100 million in crude. The pirates captured an Iranian cargo ship Tuesday - the eighth ship seized in 12 days. Both vessels were headed to the Middle East.
Odfjell SE said it made the decision to divert its ships after pirates seized the Saudi Arabian supertanker MV Sirius Star Saturday hundreds of miles off the coast of Kenya, the most brazen attack yet by Somalian pirates.
Pirate attacks off the Somali coast have surged 75 percent this year, as bandits lured by million-dollar ransoms have pushed farther out to sea in search of bigger prey among the 20,000 oil tankers, freighters and merchant vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden each year.
Somalia is caught up in an Islamic insurgency and has had no functioning government since 1991.