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India tightens coastal security

world Updated: Mar 29, 2007 20:09 IST

IANS
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Ammunition that may have been meant for Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels have been discovered hidden in coconut groves in hamlets on the Tamil Nadu coast, officials said on Thursday.

The development comes as India announced it was placing the southeast coast under radar surveillance following the first aerial attack on a Sri Lankan air base near Colombo by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The police on Wednesday seized 1,950 detonators buried in sand in sacks at Uchipuli in the coastal district of Rameswaram.

Ramanathapuram Superintendent of Police R Thirugnanam said investigations were on to see if the ammunition was meant for the LTTE.

The recovery is just one among many such in Tamil Nadu. In the past two months, material including aluminium ingots used in making land mines and ball bearings used in explosives have been seized from boats in the waters that divide India and Sri Lanka.

"We have stepped up patrolling in the Palk Bay and in the Gulf of Mannar region after the seizure of a LTTE boat (packed with explosives) recently. We have increased the number of marine commandos in the area," naval officer commanding, Commodore PE Van Haltren, told the media in Chennai.

According to Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, the Sri Lankan government has agreed to let Indian naval personnel board its ships during patrolling in the Palk Strait.

Following the LTTE air strike on the Katunayake air base near Colombo on March 26, the Southern Naval Command said that jointly with the Indian Air Force (IAF) it had placed eight radars along the Rameswaram-Tuticorin sector of the coast.

This coast is especially vulnerable due to a big port and power generating reactors on the Indian side.

There is a naval air base at Uchipuli, 45 kms from Rameswaram town, where a part of India reaches out to Thalaimanar on the Sri Lanka side, across just 26 kms of water. This is the closest point between Sri Lanka and India.

Besides the two coast guard patrol vessels, several interceptor crafts and speedboats have been deployed to monitor the border waters.

Plans are also on to set up a permanent IAF base at a dargah in the casuarina forest of Sundaramudaiyan village, about 30 kms south of Rameswaram town.

A radar has been placed at the dargah, local media reported. It has an air defence system and anti-aircraft gun to intercept any aircraft that may violate Indian airspace.

The IAF has also reportedly suggested that Sri Lanka be supplied shoulder-fired missiles and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems.

One of the two Indira II radars, supplied by India six months ago and installed at the Katunayake base, had reportedly been switched off at the time of the LTTE air attack at 00.45 hours on March 26.

Published reports suggest the LTTE used airstrips near Iranamadu in Mullaitivu district to mount the March 26 strike and that it was in possession of two light craft and probably as many helicopters.