Sri Lanka
Tamil Nadu to beef up coastal security against weapon smuggling
Jan 10, 2007 - 8:39:28 AM

New Delhi, Jan 10 - Amid raging violence in Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu is setting up 12 Marine Police stations as part of heightened coastal security to check smuggling of weapons and explosives to the island nation.

The government has sanctioned money for the stations to come up along the winding Tamil Nadu coast and to increase the number of police check posts close to the sea from the present 60 to 100, official sources told IANS.

These are expected to happen within the next six months.

The recruits for the Marine Police will come from the Tamil Nadu Special Police. They will have to be ace swimmers and they will get additional training from the customs department and Coast Guard.

The Marine Police will operate both in the coastal districts as well as in the sea that divides Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka.

The decisions have been taken in the context of escalating violence in Sri Lanka, where the military and the Tamil Tigers are locked in fighting that left over 3,500 people dead last year and shows no signs of abating.

The discovery of 30 sacks of detonators from a van that was involved in an accident in Sivaganga district two months ago added to the urgency of the beefed up security measures.

According to the sources, those arrested after the contraband's discovery told the police in Tamil Nadu that the detonators were meant for Sri Lanka, for use by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam -.

'That discovery was taken up very seriously,' an official source said here. 'It was decided that there should be greater monitoring of coastal villages and what are known as 'landing points' for smugglers on the coast.'

Although the growing civilian casualties in Sri Lanka, particularly of Tamils, has sparked anger in Tamil Nadu, with Chief Minister M. Karunandihi pressing the central government to take a tough stand vis--vis Colombo, there is worry that the state could turn into a renewed base for the Tigers to procure explosives.

Just before midnight Tuesday, the police swooped on a boat near Mandapam in Rameshwaram thinking explosives were being smuggled out.

But the contents turned out to be 19 Sri Lankan Tamils from the island's eastern district of Trincomalee who were preparing to go back after hearing that the houses they had left behind had been taken over by others.

Some of them also told the police that their relatives in Sri Lanka were ill.

Between them, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard have bases in Chennai, Mandapam, Tuticorin, Nagappatinam, Thopputurai, Kodiakarai, Thondi as well as in Thanjavur and Pudukottai districts. Both work closely with the Tamil Nadu Police.

Their job is to patrol the sea dividing India and Sri Lanka. India has rejected Sri Lankan requests for joint naval patrolling and has also repeatedly expressed concern over the killing of civilians in the conflict.

Officials say they do not want to see Tamil Nadu again become a source for arms and explosives for Sri Lanka's warring parties.

The LTTE and other Tamil militant groups from Sri Lanka had offices and training camps in Tamil Nadu in the 1980s. LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran lived in the state from late 1983 until January 1987.

Although the LTTE is outlawed in India, many political and other groups in Tamil Nadu support the Tigers and its cause of carving out an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka's northeast.

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