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Sri Lankan Navy destroys LTTE vessel

The Navy destroys the vessel, 185 nautical miles off Devundara coast, reports PK Balachandran.

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The Sri Lankan Navy destroyed a 300 ft long LTTE gun running vessel, 185 nautical miles off the Devundara coast in the south of the island on Wednesday.

Naval spokesman Com DKP Dassanayake said that a routine naval patrol off the southern coast had seen a large vessel without a flag moving towards Sri Lanka.

When asked to identify itself, the vessel gave false information. The navy then told the vessel to proceed towards Galle for inspection.

But instead of complying with the order, the vessel opened fire with medium weapons. The navy retaliated, and set the vessel on fire.

The explosions in it indicated the existence of explosives.

Earlier, on Tuesday, the Navy destroyed two LTTE craft and damaged three others in a clash with a flotilla of 14 LTTE boats off Pulmoddai, north of Trincomalee and south of Mullaitivu on the eastern coast.

Dassanayake said that in the past year, the Navy had destroyed 9 LTTE vessels disguised as multi-day fishing trawlers.

It had also destroyed two big vessels, the one which was neutralised on Wednesday, being the biggest yet.

The Security Forces on Tuesday captured four LTTE bases in the Kurumbupiddy area in Trincomalee district, and neutralised the mortars there, said the Army spokesman, Brig Prasad Samarasinghe.

LTTE's "lunacy"

The government's Defense Spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella, told newspersons, that the mortar attack on the US Ambassador and other foreign envoys in Batticaloa on Tuesday was "lunacy".

"There is lunacy in all terrorism, but Prabhakaran (the LTTE supremo) has set the highest level," Rambukwella remarked.

He said that the firing was "pre-planned and pre-meditated" and had the objective of preventing international developmental aid from reaching the Tamil people.

The envoys were on a "needs assessment mission" he pointed out.

Rambukwella trashed the LTTE's claim that there was an arrangement by which the government had to notify the LTTE in advance about any VIP movement, and that the government had not adhered to the set procedure in relation to Tuesday's by the foreign envoys.

"There is no such procedure, at least in this area. And at any rate, terrorists need not be given advance notice," he said.

He said that the attack on the envoys flowed from desperation as the LTTE was losing control over the Tamil people, who were "clearly distancing themselves from it".

The Tamil diaspora had also ceased to contribute to its coffers, he added.

The US and the other countries, whose envoys were subjected to the mortar attack, would take "appropriate action", the Sri Lankan minister said.

Karuna's group "illegal"

In a startling statement on Wednesday, Rambukwella said that the Karuna group, which had broken away from the LTTE in March 2004 and had since been working with the government Security Forces, was "illegal".

Asked if the government was taking the help of the Karuna group in its on-going military operations against the LTTE in the East, as widely alleged, Rambukwella shot back: "We don't expect assistance from illegal organisations."

This is the first time that the Karuna group has been branded as "illegal" and therefore illegitimate, by a Sri Lankan government spokesman,

However, in 2004, the then Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, had described Karuna as a "terrorist" and had declared that the government would not promote a "terrorist".

Later, when Rambukwella was asked if the government would take steps to curb the depredations of the Karuna group in Batticaloa, he said: "Government is very much concerned about the law and order situation in Batticaloa and appropriate action will be taken against any group creating unrest."

First Published: Feb 28, 2007 18:46 IST