The Indian navy said Monday it thwarted a pirate attack on a Norwegian tanker in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia.

An Indian warship patrolling the seas responded to a distress call from the tanker belonging to the Nordic American Tanker Company after it was fired upon by pirates, said P.V.S. Satish, the navy spokesman in New Delhi.

A helicopter immediately took off from the warship and foiled the pirates' attempt, Satish said. Other details were not immediately available.

The Gulf of Aden is one of the world's most important shipping lanes, crossed by 20,000 vessels a year, and a prime target for Somali pirates.

Indian warships have been escorting merchant ships as part of anti-piracy surveillance in the area since last year.