April 27: At a time Delhi is worried about the Tamil Tigers’ acquisition of an air force, their navy has carried out a stealth strike on Indians.
The Sea Tigers not only kidnapped 12 Indian fishermen but managed to keep it secret for more than seven weeks till six arrested rebels spilled the beans to Tamil Nadu police.
State police chief D. Mukherjee this evening revealed the news of the first abduction of Indians by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam since Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991.
The fishermen, 11 from Tamil Nadu and one from Kerala, had been missing since March 4 when they put out to sea from Sakthikulangara in Kerala’s Kollam district in a mechanised boat, Sri Krishna.
The kidnapping is believed to have taken place somewhere near the Indo-Lankan maritime boundary, Mukherjee said, and the hostages have probably been taken to a rebel camp in northern Sri Lanka. The foreign ministry in Delhi declined comment.
Fishing industry sources in Kollam said the boat belonged to a man who lives near Kochi. A few days after Easter, which fell on April 8, an anonymous caller had told the owner his boat and the fishermen had been “captured by the Sri Lankan navy”.
The owner approached state officials but was told they had not been able to establish the charge.
The six Lankan Tamils being questioned were arrested on April 11 off the Tuticorin coast after a mechanical snag in their boat, Maria, caused them to drift into Indian waters.
Mukherjee said they had admitted to being one of the many Sea Tiger squads ferrying weapons and ammunition to their camps from an LTTE ship stationed in the high seas.
Stranded in the Palk Strait, Ravikumar, Bonibass, Robin, Arul Gnanadasan, Arul and Selvakumar had dumped their entire cache of arms into the water and sought the help of six Indian fishermen. These fishermen are being questioned.
The arrested rebels have also confirmed what the police had suspected: that the March 29 shooting of five Tamil Nadu fishermen in the Palk Strait was a Sea Tiger strike, Mukherjee said.
The militants had apparently drawn up near the Indian boats to rob them when they grew suspicious that the fishermen were spying on them. These Sea Tigers, too, had been aboard the Maria, the arrested rebels have told the police.
Mukherjee’s revelations come a day after Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi told the Assembly that the LTTE will be “given no room” in Tamil Nadu.