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LTTE hands over Jordanian ship's crew to Red Cross

However, the fate of MV Farah III vessel, which ran aground after engine trouble, remains uncertain, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2006 14:01 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran

The LTTE on Monday handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) the 25-member crew of a Jordanian merchant vessel, which had run aground off the Mullaitivu coast on Saturday.

"The crew left for Vavuniya en route to Colombo escorted by the ICRC," the LTTE's media spokesman, Thaya Master, told Hindustan Times.

The crew were drawn from Iraq, Jordan and Egypt.

Fate of vessel uncertain

However, the fate of MV Farah III, which ran aground after engine trouble, remains uncertain.

"We will get back to you after ascertaining the facts," Thaya Master said, on being asked if the LTTE was planning to hand over the ship which it said was found to be in "Tamil Eelam territorial waters".

The Sri Lankan military believes that the ship was hijacked by the LTTE.

The Sri Lankan government had lodged a complaint of piracy against the LTTE with the Singapore-based Regional Corporation Against Piracy, said Daily Mirror quoting the Naval spokesman Com DKP Dassanayake.

Naval Fast Attack Craft were on stand-by for any eventuality, he said.

However, the LTTE's Military Spokesman Rasaiah Ilanthirayan, told Hindustan Times that the LTTE had informed the London-based International Maritime Organisation about the fate of the ship, and that the crew were safe.

The ICRC and the Scandinavian truce monitors were also informed. An ICRC official met the crew on Sunday.

The vessel Faraha III, carrying 14,000 tonnes of rice from Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh to South Africa, had developed engine trouble and was drifting towards the Mullaitivu coast in North East Sri Lanka, an area held by the LTTE.

The LTTE's Sea Tigers boarded the vessel on suspicion, but when it became clear that it was a merchant vessel in distress, they tried to set the engine right.

When they were unsuccessful, and the ship had run aground, they took the crew to the shore.

First Published: Dec 25, 2006 14:01 IST