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Indian navy bolsters Arabian Sea forces after attacks

India’s navy said it is deploying three warships and reconnaissance aircraft in the Arabian Sea to “maintain a deterrent presence” after a string of recent shipping attacks. Three guided-missile destroyers as well as P8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft were being deployed following “the recent spate of attacks in the Arabian Sea”, it said in a statement late Monday. Washington accused Tehran of carrying out a drone attack on Saturday on the MV Chem Pluto tanker 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) off the coast of India, claims Iran’s foreign ministry dubbed “worthless”. It was the first time Washington has openly accused Iran of directly targeting ships since the start of Israel’s war on the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which is backed by Tehran. The Liberian-flagged and Japanese-owned MV Chem Pluto was moored off India’s port of Mumbai on Monday. “Analysis of the area of attack and debris found on the ship points towards a drone attack,” India’s navy said, adding “further forensic and technical analysis will be required”. Elsewhere, in the Red Sea, Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels have carried out a string of drone and missile attacks in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is battling Hamas militants. The war was triggered by an unprecedented attack on Israel launched by Hamas on October 7 from the Gaza Strip, during which about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, were killed, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures. Fighters also seized about 250 hostages, Israel says. Israel’s campaign has killed at least 20,674 people, mostly women and children, in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Yemeni rebel attacks have prompted major firms to reroute their cargo vessels around the southern tip of Africa, a much longer voyage with higher fuel costs. New Delhi is also boosting its anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden after Somali pirates this month hijacked the bulk carrier MV Ruen. India’s navy said it had shadowed the Bulgaria-owned and Malta-flagged vessel after it was seized by Somali pirates 380 nautical miles east of the Yemeni island of Socotra on December 16. The Somali pirates, who released one injured sailor into the care of the Indian navy, took the MV Ruen and its remaining 17 crew members to Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland, where it is now moored off the city of Bosaso, the navy said. India had also sent a guided-missile destroyer to the region as part of “augmenting the anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden”, the navy added. Pirate attacks off the Somali coast peaked in 2011 — with the gunmen launching attacks as far as 3,655 kilometres (2,271 miles) from the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean — before falling off sharply in recent years.

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