Muslim, Sinhala fishermen describe SLN attack

[TamilNet, Friday, 03 May 2002, 23:16 GMT]
"A shell fired by the Navy gunboat hit our trawler. Mohammed Sabeek was killed on the spot. The trawler blew up. Mohammed Hayath and I jumped into the sea and swam amid heavy firing by the Navy. Hayath who was seriously wounded in the attack died while swimming ashore around 1 a.m.

I saw another trawler on which the Navy fired going up in flames", said Noor Mohammed Naseer, 32, of Valaichenai, who survived the Sri Lanka Navy's May 1 attack on fishing boats off the Vaakarai coast, 64 kilometres north of Batticaloa, describing his ordeal to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission members Friday. Sri Lanka military claimed, however, the boats were LTTE craft and that one had blown itself up.

"There were no LTTE boats in the area in which we were fishing. But the Navy kept firing on us even while we were swimming to the shore," he said. Naseer's knee and left forehead were injured in the Navy fire. He was admitted to the Valaichenai hospital Friday with the assistance of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission representatives in Batticaloa.

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Mr.Heikki Hulkkonen of the SLMM in Batticaloa speaking to Naseer (right) of Valaichenai who survived the Sri Lanka Navy's attack on fishing boats off the Vaakarai coast. (Photo:TamilNet)
"We fled towards the coast when four Navy guns boats that approached the waters in which we were fishing east of the Vaakarai estuary began shelling and firing at us. The Navy is very much aware that we dive for sea cucumbers in this part of the sea. I saw the two larger fishing vessels going up in flames," said Meera Mohideen Mansoor, 44, a Muslim fisherman from Puttalam.

"Sixteen Sinhala, eighteen Muslim and two Tamil fishermen from Puttalam had encamped in the village of Kaayankerni for more than a month to dive for the lucrative sea cucumbers and coloured tropical fish in the reefs," a survivor of the SLN attack said.

They told the SLMM Wednesday that they cannot get back to their encampment in Kaayankerni, 38 kilometres north of Batticaloa, in their boats because the Sri Lanka Navy was attacking all movement along the Vaakarai-Valaichenai coast from Wednesday night.

"Normally we set out from Kaayankerni in twelve boats in the evening. We have an early dinner at the Sallithivu shoal and reef before beginning our work in the seas beyond. When the Navy gunboats started firing on us indiscriminately, we raised our hands and tried to shout at them that were just ordinary fishermen. But the Navy kept firing on us. We took our boats ashore as fast we could to escape the SLN attack. Some of the boats were damaged in the SLN firing," said Adigar Mudiyansalage Upali of Kalpitty.

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A section of the fishermen who survived Wednesday's attack. (Photo:TamilNet)
"One of our boats is missing," he said, adding that the SLN fired even on the survivors who reached the shore.

"There were twelve boats from Kaayankerni and two Muslim owned trawlers in the area where we were fishing and diving on Wednesday evening," Upali said.

According to him, four SLN gunboats had approached the sea east off the northern coast of Batticaloa in which they were fishing and had started to fire on them from all directions.

The fishermen killed in the SLN attack are Mr. Mohammed Thamby Sabeek, 37, and Mohammed Hayath, 34. The details of the others killed in the attack are still not known, sources said.

 

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