Indian Fisherman Dies in Pirate Attack

File photo courtesy EUNAVFOR

Published Jan 17, 2016 10:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Saturday, the Bahraini Coast Guard's commander reported that a dhow was attacked outside of the nation's territorial waters and that an Asian sailor was killed, part of an ongoing pattern of piracy on the Bahraini, Saudi and Qatari maritime borders with Iran.

Prosecutors were notified. The commander further asked fishermen to stay within proper fishing areas in Bahrain and to avoid crossing any maritime borders. In addition to safety, the commander warned that violations could lead to legal actions.

A Gulf media outlet added that the five crew of the dhow, all Indian nationals, were at sea for 16 hours following the attack, as the pirates removed their navigational equipment and radios and they had difficulty finding their way back.

The survivors identified the deceased as captain Pankaj Bhai Tandel, who was killed while attempting to resist the assailants.

“There was a small boat at a distance which came closer near the Iranian – Qatari water border and suddenly three masked men jumped into our dhow and started to beat us with wooden planks . . . They were young, well-built and spoke Arabic, but not the Bahraini dialect,” said a crewmember. The pirates reportedly took the dhow's catch before departing.

Indian contract workers with Persian Gulf fishing companies have faced the danger of piracy for some time: Tandel’s death is the fourth in as many years. 

Fisherman Antony Anish Andrews was killed in an attack near Bahrain in August 2015. Qatari authorities told survivors that they suspected the pirates in the incident were Iranian, Bahraini media said. The South Asian Fishermen Federation confirmed this account. 

In May 2015, Indian national Siluvai Mathivalan, was shot dead by suspected Iranian pirates near the Saudi – Iranian maritime border. His fishing launch reportedly strayed into Iranian waters and was attacked. His crewmates were left unharmed in the incident.

In 2014, fisherman Thomas Gildus was shot and killed in a pirate attack in Bahraini waters. Indian authorities with the consulate in Bahrain told the Times of India that the pirates were Iranian nationals.

In 2013, a dhow was shot at in Bahraini waters, forced to stop and towed over the maritime border to Iranian seas by pirates. The attackers boarded the dhow and robbed its crew before releasing it. One crewmember was injured with two gunshots to his shoulder; the crewmembers said that they felt that their lives were in danger. They reported that the attackers had an Iranian accent, according to Bahraini media.

The Tamil Nadu Fisherman Development Trust and Bahrain Fisherman's Union have appealed to the United Nations for assistance in combating piracy in the region. According to the Trust's president, P. Justin Antony, the pirates are “jobless young men who may be wandering in the sea to commit crimes for money,” and aim to loot fish catches or hold crew for ransom. He adds that they “shoot at random” if they see a boat has too many crewmembers on it to easily overpower. Antony did not identify any one country as the primary source of the pirates.