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Drone attack: Indian Navy begins 'focused' maritime security operations in Arabian Sea

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Indian Navy on Tuesday said it has commenced "focused" maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea in view of the recent incidents in the region, including the attack on merchant vessel MV Chem Pluto.

The Navy's announcement on the operations came hours after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, speaking at an event in Mumbai, vowed to take tough action against the perpetrators of the attacks.

The Liberian-flagged vessel was target of a drone attack on Saturday off India's west coast, triggered security concerns as the incident came amid Iran-backed Houthi militants launching strikes on several commercial ships.

Besides MV Chem Pluto, another commercial oil tanker MV Sai Baba that was on the way to India, came under a suspected drone strike in Southern Red Sea on the same day.

An Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team of the Indian Navy carried out a detailed inspection of the vessel after it arrived in Mumbai harbour on Monday.

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar was briefed on the initial analysis undertaken by the EOD team and the follow-on actions being progressed.

"In light of the recent maritime incidents in the Arabian Sea, the Indian Navy has commenced focused maritime security operations in the region," the Navy said in a statement.

"The presence of Indian Navy warships and air surveillance in the region has been enhanced. Actions are being progressed in coordination with national maritime agencies towards ensuring safety of merchant marine in the region," it said.

It said consequent to the incident of the suspected drone attack on MV Chem Pluto on December 23, the explosive ordnance disposal specialists had embarked the vessel at anchorage, off Mumbai on Monday for sanitisation and preliminary analysis.

"Based on MV Chem Pluto crew inputs and on-scene examination, the analysis by the EOD team points to a strong possibility of a drone attack," the Navy said.

"It has been ascertained that the explosive charge on the drone detonated completely causing extensive damage above waterline. Remnants of projectile have been collected by the Indian Navy for further forensic analysis in coordination with other agencies," it said.

"The Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral R Hari Kumar, was briefed on the initial analysis undertaken by the Indian Navy EOD team and the follow on actions being progressed," the Navy said.

A Pentagon spokesperson said on Sunday that MV Chem Pluto was hit by "a one-way attack drone fired from Iran".

In view of spate of attacks on commercial vessels in the Arabian Sea, the Navy deployed P-8I long-range patrol aircraft for surveillance, and warships INS Mormugao, INS Kochi and INS Kolkata in the region to maintain "deterrent presence", officials said.

MV Chem Pluto, carrying crude oil to New Mangalore port from Al Jubail port in Saudi Arabia, was struck about 217 nautical miles from Porbandar on Saturday. No one was injured in the incident.

MV Sai Baba, a Gabon-flagged commercial crude oil tanker with 25 Indian crew members, also came under a drone attack in the Southern Red Sea on Saturday but no one was injured, according to Indian officials and the US military.

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