MNDF rescues Iranian vessel suspected hijacked

Maldives Coastguard rescued an Iranian fishing vessel in Maldivian territorial waters yesterday, discovering the crew had been deprived of water and food for several days.

Following reports of an Iranian fishing vessel which had drifted into Maldivian waters, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and coastguard began a search for the ship.

MNDF Major Abdul Raheem said the ship was found at around 4.40pm yesterday on the outskirts of Havadhu Atoll.

“They were having engine problems and drifted to the Maldives,” Major Raheem said. “We wanted to give assistance; they had no food or water.”

The twenty crew members, all of Iranian nationality, were also provided with medical assistance.

Major Raheem noted the crew were still in the Maldives. “Our government and Iran’s government are having negotiations to decide when they will be sent back.”

Of the reports that seven of the men found on the vessel were pirates who had highjacked the ship earlier, he said “we cannot say whether they are pirates. They had no identification on them.”

“We conducted a search and found no weapons in the ship,” he added.

But, Major Raheem noted, the vessel’s captain did say his crew had been taken by pirates six months ago. The ship’s owner, who is in Iran, has not had contact with the ship for six months.

The Major said there was no current investigation by the MNDF regarding the case.

MNDF Lieutenant Abdulla Ali said civil aviation craft were used for the search. He said the men were “still in that boat,” but the MNDF is providing them with food and water.

He said the negotiations with Iran were underway to send them back.

Lieutenant Ali added “we can’t say” whether seven of the men took over the ship, but confirmed that the captain of the vessel had said they were highjacked six months ago and the pirates were currently on board the ship.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.