India’s navy said Friday it was responding to the apparent hijacking of a cargo vessel in the Arabian Sea, the latest incident of attacks on commercial shipping in the region. Last month the force deployed several warships into the sea to “maintain a deterrent presence” after a string of recent shipping attacks, including a drone attack near India’s coast blamed on Iran by the United States. It comes at a time when many vessels have been rerouted from the Red Sea, where Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels have carried out drone and missile attacks in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is battling Hamas militants. The navy said it had “responded swiftly to a maritime incident in Arabian Sea involving a hijacking attempt” of a Liberian-flagged bulk carrier ship. Around 15 Indian crew members are aboard the ship, local media reported. Five or six “unknown armed personnel” had boarded the vessel on Thursday evening, the navy said. The navy did not specify whether hijackers were currently in control of the ship but said an overhead patrol flight had ascertained the safety of the crew on Friday morning. INS Chennai, a navy destroyer, was closing in on the vessel’s location to offer assistance, it added. “The Indian Navy remains committed to ensuring safety of merchant shipping in the region along with international partners and friendly foreign countries,” the statement said. Last month a drone attack hit the MV Chem Pluto tanker 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) off the coast of India. Iran’s foreign ministry rejected accusations of responsibility for that attack by Washington as “worthless”. It was nonetheless the first time Washington had 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. That conflict 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 22,438 people, mostly women and children, in Gaza as of Thursday, 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.