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India's navy takes control of bulk carrier hijacked by Somali pirates and evacuates crew

NEW DELHI (AP) — The Indian navy said late Saturday that it had taken control of a bulk carrier hijacked by Somali pirates and evacuated the 17 crew members on the vessel.

In a statement on X, the navy said all 35 pirates on board the Maltese-flagged MV Ruen had surrendered and the vessel was checked for illegal arms, ammunition and contraband. The whole operation took about 40 hours and involved drones, navy vessels and marine commandos.

The development came after men on the bulk carrier fired at an Indian warship in international waters Friday, triggering the navy to intercept the vessel some 2,600 kilometers (1,615 miles) off the Indian coast.

The vessel was first boarded by pirates Dec. 14 near the Yemeni island of Socotra, around 240 kilometers (150 miles) off Somalia.

Activity from Somali pirates has dropped in recent years, but there has been growing concern it could resume amid the political uncertainty and wider chaos in the region that has included attacks on ships by Yemen's Houthi rebels.

Earlier this week, a Bangladesh-flagged cargo ship with 23 crew members was hijacked by pirates off Somalia. A European Union vessel was tracking the ship, the EU's maritime security force said Wednesday.

India recently began to flex its its naval power in international waters, including anti-piracy patrols and a widely publicized deployment close to the Red Sea to help protect ships from attacks during Israel’s war with Hamas.

The navy has helped at least four merchant vessels that were attacked in high seas by Houthi forces. Indian forces include three guided missile destroyers and reconnaissance aircraft.