Sri Lanka claims boat transporting LTTE arms destroyed
May 17, 2007 - 5:19:15 PM
Colombo, May 17 - A fishing boat transporting weapons and explosives for Tamil rebels has been destroyed off Maldives and at least four people have been arrested, the Sri Lankan government said Thursday.
The fishing boat, flying a Sri Lankan flag, had initially fired at a Maldivian fishing boat on Wednesday night, prompting the crew of the boat to inform the Maldivian National Defence Force, which surrounded the suspicious vessel within their territory, a defence ministry statement said.
The crew of the suspicious boat had also fired at the Maldivian defence force boats and crewmembers had jumped overboard. But four of them have been captured, the statement said.
The Maldivian forces retaliated and the suspicious boat, identified as the Sri Krishna, exploded and burst into flames.
One of the crewmembers of the vessel claimed that Tamil rebels had forced them to transport a consignment of weapons to Sri Lankan waters, military sources in Colombo said.
The crew members have claimed they were Indian nationals and their identities are being verified, the military source said.
The Indian fishing vessel Sri Krishna disappeared with 12 Indian fishermen on board about two months earlier in Indian waters and the director general of police in Tamil Nadu, D Mukherjee, on April 27 said that the fishermen were abducted and held captive by the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam -.
Military officials said that there was a strong possibility that it was the same boat, which had been used to smuggle the weapons. Rebels have made at least six other unsuccessful attempts this year to smuggle weapons through sea routes. In all these occasions the Sri Lankan navy had intercepted their vessels and destroyed the boats.
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