The Indian Navy on Friday rescued 21 crew members, including 15 Indians, from a merchant ship that had been hijacked in the Arabian Sea.

The Navy said that all the crew members are safe. It said its special forces group Marcos conducted sanitisation operations and confirmed the absence of the hijackers on the vessel.

The hijacking attempt appeared to have been abandoned after a forceful warning by the security forces, the Navy said.

The operation was initiated after Liberian-flagged merchant vessel MV Lila Norfolk sent a message to the United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations portal on Thursday evening, indicating that five to six unknown armed persons had boarded the ship.

Friday’s development comes amid a spate of similar hijacking attempts in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.

On December 16, the Indian Navy had deployed a maritime patrol aircraft and its warship in response to a hijacking incident in the Gulf of Aden involving a Malta-flagged vessel, MV Reun, with 18 crew on board.

Since November, the Houthis, a Yemen-based military organisation backed by Iran, has claimed responsibility for several attacks on commercial shipping in the region. The attacks have increased navigation risks along the crucial international maritime route.

The attacks disrupting maritime traffic are seen as a response to Israel’s war on Gaza. More than 21,000 Palestinians, including at least 8,000 children, have been killed since October 7. The war was triggered by the attack on southern Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas that killed 1,200 people. The militant group had also taken more than 200 hostages.