The eight Somalis caught in May off the Lakshadweep islands are pirates, says the Indian Express, quoting anonymous highly placed sources in the coastal security agencies. This revelation is the first confirmation of what many suspected for a long time- that the pirates were operating much further than anybody thought- and is likely to ring alarm bells throughout the country.
The Somalis had claimed that they were fishermen when they were detained back in May, and said that they were lost without fuel or water, and had swum ashore after their mother ship sank. Officials believe, however, that these men are actually pirates and had come northward way beyond the coasts of Mauritius and Seychelles. Officials were later quoted in the media, after the May detention, as saying that there had been more than a dozen piracy incidents within 400 miles off the Lakshadweep islands.
"However, they have now been identified as pirates. Of course, they have not come to the Indian waters intentionally. They were part of a bigger group, they came by a mother ship, drifted away in two boats. They, however, have crossed the Mauritius and Seychelles coasts. From the Somali coast, they came up to here. The area of operation is quite big," said the sources quoted in the Express.
Meanwhile, the authorities announced last month that the Coast Guard is undergoing major modifications and restructuring in the Lakshadweep islands to stop infiltration and beef up coastal security. One more Coast Guard station will be set up at the Minicoy Island by October, in addition to the one already existing in the Kavaratti Island.
“The new Coast Guard station to be activated by October, will be a small station with minimum number of officers and other personnel. There will be an interceptor boat attached to the station in the initial period,” officials said in July. A Coast Guard air station has also been mooted for Minicoy; land acquisition for this is in progress. The Coast Guard wants to operate its Dornier aircraft from this station, it is learnt.
There is actually a longer term proposal to add, to the Lakshadweep islands, three new facilities - CG station Minicoy, air station at Minicoy and another CG station at Androth. A new Headquarters will be formed for this purpose. Called Coast Guard District Head Quarters 12, this will include the existing Kavaratti Coast Guard station.
Although the beefing up of coastal security has been in progress since the Mumbai attacks, the slow pace of implementation has dismayed many experts. One hopes that this new threat to the Indian coast is being taken very seriously by the coastal security apparatus, especially in view of the MStar attack in the Straits of Hormuz last week, which the authorities in the UAE have confirmed as an ‘external explosion’.