An Indian navy warship has intercepted the hijacked the cargo ship Ruen and demanded the Somali pirates on board surrender, a navy spokesperson said on Saturday.

The pirates who allegedly hijacked the Maltese-flagged bulk cargo vessel on Dec. 14 opened fire on the navy ship in international waters on Friday, the spokesperson said without providing further details.

The navy had called on the pirates to surrender and release the vessel and any civilians they may be holding.

Somali pirates who seized the vessel in December may have used it in the takeover of a Bangladesh-flagged cargo ship off the coast of Somalia this week, the European Union naval force said on Thursday.

Until the Ruen was seized, there head been no successful hijacking of a merchant ship by Somali pirates since 2017.

At least 17 incidents of hijacking, attempted hijacking or suspicious approaches have been recorded by the Indian navy since December, Indian officials have said.

India deployed at least a dozen warships east of the Red Sea in January to provide security against pirates and has investigated more than 250 vessels.

(Reporting by Harshita Meenaktshi in Bengaluru and Sriram Mani; Editing by William Mallard and Stephen Coates)