Union: Navy destroyed fishing boats, not Tiger craft

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 31 January 2007, 11:36 GMT]
On Saturday Sri Lanka’s military said it had foiled a Tamil Tiger attack on the Colombo port and that three Sea Tiger boats had been destroyed. The navy said nine people had been arrested in connection with the attack. However, the All Ceylon Fisheries Union (ACFU) Tuesday contradicted the military and said the Navy had fired on fishing boats and arrested fishermen. An alleged black out on news had censored details of an attack said to have destroyed four Sri Lankan vessels in Colombo Harbour last Saturday. A flotilla of five attack boats and four explosions were registered by eyewitnesses.

On Saturday the Sri Lankan Defence Minsitry said naval craft blew up one boat Saturday after the three were spotted near a restricted zone, before chasing and sinking the other two.

"The navy successfully foiled the (LTTE) attempt," the ministry said.

Six people, including three who jumped out of one of the suspected LTTE craft, were arrested, military officials were quoted as saying.

A foreign container vessel, Pelaponesian Pride, flying under a Panamanian flag, was damaged by the explosion of the second rebel boat hit by the navy, Navy Rear Admiral B.A.G.G. Peiris told reporters, adding: "a container burst open and came off its original position as a result of the shockwaves."

However the All Ceylon Fisheries Union (ACFU) contradicted the defence ministry’s version of events, saying naval craft fired on Sinhala fishing craft and arrested innocent fishermen.

President of the Gampaha branch of the ACFU, Aruna Roshantha, spoke to the BBC Sinhala service Tuesday.

Fishermen had witnessed fishing boats being attacked by the Navy, he said.

"The boats caught up fire and blew up. Nine crew members from the blown up boats were detained. Three are still in custody", he said.

Roshantha said one of the boats destroyed by the Navy was bearing no. OFRPA 1666MBO.

Twenty one fishermen are among those arrested in connection with the alleged attack on the Colombo Port, he said.

"Our boats were fishing about 20 miles from Colombo in the deep sea when the Navy Dvora gunships sorrounded them", Roshantha said.

Meanwhile the Sunday Times said that the alleged attack came just half an hour before the Navy, with the support of elements of the Army and Police, were to carry out a rehearsal of the Colombo Harbour Action Plan.

Police stations and port authorities were among those informed that the rehearsal was scheduled to begin at 6 am, the paper said.

The LTTE has not commented on the attack.



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