2nd lead:

SLN sinks LTTE vessel in international waters

[TamilNet, Saturday, 14 June 2003, 09:30 GMT]
The Sri Lanka navy Saturday intercepted and sank a merchant vessel of the Liberation Tigers travelling in international waters, 266 miles off the Trincomalee coast, LTTE sources said. The twelve crewmen of the ship had donned life jackets and jumped overboard when SLN gunboats began firing on their vessel and were arrested by the Navy, they said.

The Sri Lanka gunboats had then continued to fire on the LTTE vessel until it began sinking, the sources said, adding the incident took place at about 7am Saturday.

The LTTE contacted the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) when the incident began to register its protest and investigate the attack, the sources said.

The LTTE has urged the SLMM to protect the safety of its crew, the sources further said, adding there are concerns they would be mistreated in Sri Lankan custody.

In a similar incident on March 10, the SLN intercepted and attacked another LTTE merchant vessel. The eleven crew members were killed when the vessel sank.

In a letter to the Sri Lankan government, the LTTE said "this grave incident will have far reaching implications for the peace process." However, the sixth round of talks was held as scheduled in Japan that month.

After its investigation, the SLMM confirmed the LTTE ship was a merchant vessel and said there was no evidence it was carrying weapons as had been claimed by the SLN. The SLMM also noted the SLNís authority did not extend into international waters where the ship had been sunk.

The latest incident however comes at a low point in the Norwegian peace process. The LTTE suspended talks in April protesting the governmentís failure to honour prior agreements on resettlement of up to a million refugees and internally displaced people.

 

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