New Delhi/Bangkok: In a twist to the sinking of a pirate ship in the Gulf of Aden by the Indian Navy last week, a Thai national on Tuesday claimed that the vessel was actually a trawler belonging to him and that 16 sailors were still aboard when it perished.
According to Wicharn Sirichalekewat, owner of the 'Ekawat nava 5', one crew member was found alive after six days adrift in the Gulf of Aden and one is confirmed dead. The rest are still missing, he said.
Wilcharn told reporters in Bangkok and Indian TV channels that his ship was in the process of being seized by pirates when it came under fire.
He said that Ekawat Nava 5 was headed to Yemen from Oman to deliver fishing equipment when it was set upon by pirates off the Horn of Africa. The pirates were seizing control of the ship when INS Tabar moved in, he added.
Wilcharn said he learnt about the fate of the vessel from a Cambodian crew member who survived the gunfire and drifted in the ocean for six days before he was plucked to safety by a passing ship. The sailor was recovering in a hospital in Yemen, he said.
"The sunken ship which the Indian Navy claimed was a 'mothership' of pirates was not the 'mothership' at all," he said. "The pirates wanted to take our ship to Somalia."
In New Delhi, Naval sources insisted that the ship had acted against a pirate vessel which had threatened to attack the Tabar.
The personnel in INS Tabar fired in self-defence and in response to firing upon the frigate, the sources said.
The ship that was sunk by the Indian Navy was a pirate vessel in the international waters and its stance was aggressive, the sources added. The ship was also seen ablaze.
The Indian Navy reported last week that the frigate had fended off an attack from a 'mother ship' of pirates in the Gul of Aden on November 19 and sunk it.