Anti-piracy patrol targets Yemen fishermen

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Asia Times | Anti-piracy patrol targets Yemen fishermen | Article

Anti-piracy patrol targets Yemen fishermen
Not far from his boat, Hassan Brek demonstrates how Indian naval personnel whipped him, tied his hands with a piece of rope and threw him into the sea. Photo: Saeed Al Batati / Asia Times

Crew members tell Asia Times of violent searches and seizures at hands of Bahrain-based global task force

BySaeed Al-Batati, Qusayir, Yemen 15 May 2019

A global anti-piracy task force deployed in the Arabian Sea to protect shipping lanes has engaged in invasive and violent searches and seizures of small Yemeni fishing vessels with apparent impunity, fishermen told Asia Times.

Multiple fishermen from Yemen’s southeastern province of Hadramout say international warships, most recently from the Indian navy, have targeted them in deep water and sometimes even in Yemen’s territorial waters. The perceived harassment has spread panic in fishing communities along the Yemeni coast, compelling many to shorten their voyages and others to abandon the profession entirely – some even taking up arms in the war.

In the Yemeni village of Qusayir, which looks out onto the Gulf of Aden, fishermen are still reeling from a disturbing seizure that took place three months ago.

It seemed like a normal day when Hassan Brek and four other fishermen set off on their small boat, sailing into the Indian Ocean to look for fish. When they were almost 20 nautical miles from Qusayir, a warship sprang up on the horizon and began following them.

“We thought it was just cruising like other ships,” Brek, 36, told Asia Times. But the warship continued following them until the fishermen stopped to refuel, almost 50 nautical miles from their home village. The imposing vessel, labeled with the number F51, stopped near their boat, sounded a horn and dispatched two smaller crafts carrying several armed soldiers.

“The soldiers shinnied up our boat and shouted ‘Hindi or English!’ The other soldiers on the ship and the boat were pointing guns at us,” Brek said.

“They signaled to us to use our Thuraya satellite phone to call other fishermen in the sea. When we told them we could not get through, they began beating us,” he said, standing alongside his boat on Qusayir’s picturesque sandy coast.

The fishermen said the soldiers kicked and stomped on them with their boots, whipped them with ropes, and threatened to kill them if they did not call other fishermen.

“They were repeating one Arabic word, yaje, yaje [let them come],” Brek said as he recounted the horror at sea. The fishermen could not reach their colleagues despite calling them many times.

“We knew they were Indians from the small flags on their military uniforms.”

Brek said the soldiers at one point tied his hands together with a rope and forced his head underwater until he was unable to breathe – only then letting him come up for air.

“They were laughing as they were torturing us,” the fisherman said.

Anti-piracy patrol

The vessel identification number and its description suggest it is the Russian-build INS Trikand frigate, which has been in service in the Indian navy since 2013.

A highly placed Indian naval official confirmed to Asia Times that the vessel is deployed in the region on an anti-piracy mission:

“We follow established SOPs (standard operating procedures) for keeping track of vessels that could be used by pirates. This is part of the international effort to deter any piracy and maintain the security of the sea lanes of communication.

“At times there could be some discomfort for the vessels that are intercepted since they have to suspend all activities while they are being inspected. However, they don’t last more than an hour and is quite rare. Our ship intercepts only when they sight vessels that don’t conform to the usual fishing vessels in the area or have equipment that is not required for standard fishing operations,” he said.

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