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Indian coast guard sailors freed by Lankan captors

world Updated: Dec 12, 2009 21:26 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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Two Indian coast (ICG) guard sailors taken hostage by the crew of a Sri Lankan fishing boat have been set free but their captors are now lost in the sea because of stormy weather.

The Indian Navy has joined its Lankan counterpart to look for the missing Lankan boat which had strayed into Indian waters.

On December 9, `Wind Marine 8’ (WM8) with a five-member crew was stopped by the ICG on suspicion of illegal fishing off the east coast of India. After three Lankan fishermen were taken into custody, two ICG sailors boarded the Lankan vessel to direct the remaining crew to an Indian port. But the two ICG sailors were over-powered by the two on board and taken hostage. Reports said the fishermen forcibly also took the weapons of the ICG personnel.

``This act of over-powering and holding hostage the Indian Coast Guard sailors which occurred in the general area approximately 180 nautical miles north of Chennai, led to a situation of Indian Naval vessels being deployed in the vicinity,’’ a Lankan foreign ministry statement said on Saturday.

Under pressure from the navy, the fishermen released the coast guard personnel on Friday. But the two Lankan fishermen did not surrender.

``Thereafter cyclonic weather conditions developed in the area. The Sri Lanka Navy meantime sailed some of its vessels in that direction,’’ the statement added.

``The Sri Lanka Navy and the Indian Navy are now engaged in search operations, to rescue the crew of the fishing vessel from serious difficulties the vessel appears to be encountering, due to rough seas and heavy winds,’’ the statement added.

Fisheries Minister Neomal Perera told Daily Mirror online that seven boats with Sri Lankan fishermen had entered Indian waters on Wednesday night and were surrounded by the ICG. Except two fishermen on WM8, the rest were rounded up.