Published: 19:23 September 7, 2011
Muscat: Two Indian crewmembers of a hijacked dhow were killed while six injured during a rescue mounted by a warship of the Royal Navy of Oman (RNO) off the Sultanate's eastern seaboard on Tuesday.
An alleged Somali pirate was also fatally wounded while one of his compatriots suffered injuries in the operation, according to officials at the main regional hospital at Sur where the dead and wounded were brought late on Tuesday.
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Defence, the incident occurred off Ras Al Hadd on the country's Sharqiya coast. The Royal Navy of Oman (RNO) warship ‘Musandam' on routine patrol of the area spotted the dhow, identified as ‘Tiba-2 Halima', which had been seized on September 1 and converted into a pirate mother ship.
Challenged by the warship, the pirates reportedly used their prisoners as "human shields" and attempted to flee.
At this point, the Musandam opened fire in a bid to "incapacitate" the dhow. Several crew and their captors were injured. They were initially treated on board the Musandam and later transferred to Sur Referral Hospital.
While two Indians and one hijacker were pronounced dead on arrival, six other crewmembers and one injured Somali were admitted for gunshot wounds.
Significantly, the operation underscores a more aggressive posture adopted by Omani naval forces following the audacious hijacking last month of a chemical tanker, Fairchem Bogey, barely two miles from the Sultanate's biggest container transshipment hub at Salalah.
Oman has since gone on the offensive against pirates operating in its Exclusive Economic Zone. Last week, maritime forces thwarted a pirate attack on a Liberian flagged vessel some 34 nautical miles off Salalah. In another incident reported around the same time, a dhow seized earlier by Somalis was rescued by an Omani naval ship and 10 Somali hijackers captured and brought to the sultanate to face trial.