The crew of the ill-fated Jordanian merchant vessel Farha-3 on Tuesday confirmed the Sri Lankan government's charge that the LTTE had indulged in piracy.
Ramaz S Abdul Jabbar, the Iraqi captain of the vessel told news persons in Colombo, that at about 3.30 am on Saturday, the LTTE had forcibly boarded the vessel and had taken away its radar, computers and other communication equipment, before whisking the crew away to the shore against their will.
While it was true that the ship's engine was giving trouble, the LTTE's Sea Tigers, who surrounded the vessel, fired four shots into the air to force the crew to abandon the ship and board their boats.
Captain Jabbar said that the LTTE tried to trigger explosives to destroy the ship's anchor.
"When they failed, they forced us to lift our anchor and then ordered us to leave the ship and board their boats," he said.
The LTTE did not allow the other vessels in the vicinity to come to the stricken ship's rescue after it sought help.
The Second Officer, Sharif Mohammad Mustafa, said that he hurt his back while boarding the LTTE boat, as the sea was very choppy.
Four of the sailors were hurt in the fracas (one member of the crew was in a wheelchair at the press conference).
The ship later ran aground.
However, once on shore, the LTTE treated the 25 member crew of Jordanians and Egyptians well, and made arrangements for their repatriation through the Red Cross.
Fate of vessel and rice on board uncertain
At the moment, the fate of the vessel and of the 14,000 tonnes of rice on board, is uncertain.
The ship was carrying the rice from Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh to South Afirca. It was to call at Colombo for refuelling.
A Sri Lankan Military Spokesman told Hindustan Times that the LTTE's Sea Tigers were around the stricken vessel.
Sri Lankan naval vessels were also in the vicinity, but at a distance, awaiting clearance for the next step.
"Now that the Jordanian government has been activated, its views will have to be taken into account before any efforts are made to seize the ship from the clutches of the LTTE," he explained.
Sri Lanka has already complained against the LTTE to the regional organisation against piracy based in Singapore.
The LTTE, however, said that all it did was to rescue the crew and try to repair the ship's engine.