India Begins Its First Prosecution of Somali Pirates in More than a Decade

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India is proceeding with the prosecution of the 35 Somali pirates captured aboard the bulker Ruen 10 days ago. According to the reports, it is the first time in more than a decade that India has brought captured pirates back to the country for criminal charges revising an earlier policy of disarming the pirates and releasing them.

The pirates arrived in India on Saturday, March 23, and were handed over to the Mumbai police as additional details on the ransom demands and capture also came out in the media. The court on Monday ordered the 35 individuals remanded for 10 days while the cases are developed on charges including kidnapping for ransom, extortion, criminal conspiracy, wrongful confinement, attempted murder, and criminal intimidation. Part of the delay in the prosecution is that the captives are reporting to only speak the Somali language forcing the Mumbai police to obtain a translator.

The cases are being brought under India’s Maritime Anti-Piracy laws that were enacted in 2022. According to the reports, the 35 pirates could face life imprisonment or even the death penalty. After disembarking the pirates and handing them over to the police, they were taken to an Indian hospital for a medical examination. 

According to the media reports the pirates had told Navibulgar they wanted an astounding amount of nearly $60 million for the release of the Ruen (41,600 dwt) and the 17 crewmembers remaining aboard since the ship was seized in December 2023. One additional crewmember had been released at the beginning of the incident to the Indian Navy for medical attention. Separate reports are saying the pirates are currently demanding $5 million for the release of the Bangladeshi vessel Abdullah which is still being held in Somalia.


Indian forces rounded up the pirates on the deck of the Ruen in the Indian Ocean (Indian Navy)


The Indian Navy located the Ruen approximately 260 nautical miles to the east of Somalia on March 15. According to the reports, the Indian warship Kolkata confirmed the presence of the pirates aboard using a drone. When the pirates spotted the drone, they shot it down and fired shots toward the Indian warship.  

The Indians responded according to the reports by disabling the navigation systems and steering aboard the Ruen. With the bulker stopped in the ocean, an elite team of Indian commandos parachuted into the area but they were able to convince the pirates to surrender without the further use of force.

The Ruen was cleared by the commando team and the vessel was taken to India where it was returned to Bulgaria. The Ruen departed and is now near Oman. The ship is carrying 37,800 tons of coal worth around $1 million.

The police reported that the Indian Navy in addition to the 35 captives also handed over two small boats and three engines that they believe would have been used for additional attacks. They seized nine mobile phones and 196 live cartridges as well as a knife.

This weekend marked 100 days since India embarked on its latest security mission in response to the increased activity in the Indian Ocean coming from Somalia and the Houthi militants. India’s Ministry of Defence reports they have deployed 21 ships with 5,000 personnel, steaming over 450 days, and operating 900 flight hours. They have responded to 18 incidents reporting that have saved over 110 crewmembers and provided security for more than 450 vessels.

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