Sri Lanka
LTTE suffers a major blow in Tamil Nadu
Apr 28, 2007 - 1:39:05 PM

New Delhi, April 28 - A mysterious vessel drifting in the sea, quick thinking by the Coast Guard, police doggedness, political will - all these have merged to make Tamil Nadu allege for the first time that Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers killed five fishermen from the state.

In a dramatic turn of events, the Tamil Nadu authorities late Friday blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - for gunning down the five fishermen in the sea south of the Kanyakumari March 29 - killings that sparked widespread anger in the state and for which the Sri Lankan Navy was widely blamed.

This is the first time the Tamil Nadu government has formally accused the LTTE of killing Indians in cold blood after the 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The explosive charge comes at a time when Colombo has unleashed a punishing military offensive against the Tigers and the latter are trying to whip up passions in Tamil Nadu.

In another significant development, Friday's statement, issued by Tamil Nadu's Director General of Police D. Mukherjee, also accused the Tigers of abducting 12 Indian fishermen - 11 from Tamil Nadu and one from Kerala - who went missing April 4.

According to official sources, the truth behind the March firing came to light after a Coast Guard patrol chanced upon two Indian fishing vessels proceeding to the Indian coast with six men each, south of Kanyakumari, April 11. Asked about their identity, the occupants of the boats said they were Indians.

The unsuspecting Coast Guard moved ahead, and soon thereafter came across a vessel called Maria that was drifting in the sea. Surprised, the Coast Guard boarded it after opening precautionary gunfire to realize that it was empty, devoid of any human or other cargo.

Putting two and two together, the Coast Guard reversed and this time took the 12 occupants of the two boats they had encountered earlier into custody. What aroused the Coast Guard's suspicion was that the ship involved in the March firing on the Tamil Nadu fishermen was also called Maria.

It was quickly found out that six of the 12 arrested men were Sri Lankan Tamils. Their interrogation by various security agencies revealed that they were from the LTTE's Sea Tigers. The leader of the lot was Robin.

The guerrillas admitted that they were involved in shipping arms and ammunition from the sea to an LTTE base in Sri Lanka when their vessel developed a snag. As it drifted towards the Indian waters, they dumped all their arms and ammunition into the sea and crossed over into the two boats of Indian fishermen.

'The LTTE cadres were upset about losing their weapons in the sea,' an informed source told IANS.

Significantly, the arrested men revealed that another group of Sea Tigers who were similarly transporting arms and ammunition in Maria on March 29 had shot dead the five Indian fishermen because they suspected the latter to be spies.

According to the sources, the fishermen had then inadvertently got into a tiff with the men on Maria thinking they were fishermen from Sri Lanka. The Tigers panicked and opened fire killing five fishermen.

On Friday, the Tamil Nadu government, under attack from the opposition for turning the state into a haven for Tamil Tigers, decided to go public with the damning information about the LTTE.

A day earlier, by which time the LTTE cadres' confession may have been known to him, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi told the state assembly that his government would provide no room to the LTTE to operate in Tamil Nadu.

The five fishermen's killing had sparked widespread protests across Tamil Nadu, the anger directed at Colombo. The fishing community observed a strike April 3. One of those who took part in a huge protest demonstration was M.K. Stalin, the son of Chief Minister Karunanidhi.

MDMK leader Vaiko, a diehard supporter of the LTTE, was most vocal in denouncing the Indian Navy for allegedly not protecting Tamil Nadu's fishermen from the Sri Lankan Navy. Pro-LTTE websites too echoed the allegations that the five men from Tamil Nadu had been shot dead by the Sri Lankan Navy.

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