Somalian pirates moving towards India, says Coast Guard

New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) Somalian pirates have now startedmoving towards India and the Government was investigating ifthey have any links with Pakistan-based terror groups, theIndian Coast Guard (ICG) said here today.

ICG Director General Anil Chopra said the pirates, nowoperating eastwards from their country, posed a threat to allthe merchant vessels passing through the high seas betweenIndia and the Maldives.

"When piracy is (happening) so close to India, therewould be speculation about any such linkages (between them andPakistan-based groups). Intelligence agencies areinvestigating all the people who are captured to establish ifthere is connection between them," he told reporters.

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

The 15 Somalians apprehended from a sunken piratemothership near Lakshadweep on January 28 are also beinginterrogated by the agencies concerned in Mumbai.

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

"The only place from Africa in that direction is Indiaand the most western part of India is Lakshadweep. They don''tpose any threat to India in particular but against allmerchant ships of all nations," he added.

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

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

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

As part of its efforts to counter piracy and enhancecoastal security, last month a Coast Guard districtheadquarters was commissioned in Kavaratti along with astation in Minicoy, both in the Lakshadweep Islands.

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

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

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