Navy fire sinks fishing boats
[TamilNet, Thursday, 02 May 2002, 12:49 GMT]
The Sri Lankan Navy Wednesday fired on fishing boats of the coast of Vaakarai, destroying at least two vessels and killing several fishermen, residents in the coastal village said. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission has been sent a strongly worded protest by the Liberation Tigers, sources in Kilinochchi said Thursday. Reporting the incident Wednesday the Sri Lanka military claimed the boats were LTTE craft and that one had blown itself up.
Following the attack on the fishing boats at about 4.30pm Wednesday, several Navy gunboats were patrolling in the Sallithivu sea off the Vakarai coast, residents said Thursday. LTTE officials in Kilinochchi said meanwhile that details of the fishermen killed in the boats would be released later.
Describing the incident, Sri Lankan military spokesman Brig. Sanath Karunaratne, told reporters in Colombo Wednesday that one boat had blown up when approached by naval craft.
"It suddenly exploded. We don't know the reason," the Associated Press quoted Karunaratne as saying. "There was no exchange of fire. We didn't fire at the boat.ξ
"We suspect it to be a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam boat because no other boat or vehicle operates in that area," he said.
Vakarai has a large fishing community of almost a thousand fishermen who have often protested harassment by the Navy and troops from Sri Lanka Army camps in the region. The Vaakarai Central Fishermen's Association says that whilst the restrictions on fishing have created economic hardships, promised relief aid has not been forthcoming.