Navy warns: LTTE waiting to avenge sinking of vessel?

by Namini Wijedasa
Navy intelligence has received credible information that the LTTE are planning to attack a military vessel in retaliation for last week’s action against a Tiger ship off Mullaitivu.

"We have indications that the LTTE will take revenge, at least by way of a confined attack," said a senior navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity. He was using military jargon to describe an assault on a specific target.

Intelligence reports say that the Tigers may attack a navy vessel berthed in a port. They do not rule out the possibility of this occurring in a southern harbour.

The navy last Monday destroyed a Tiger ship off the Mullaitivu coast after the vessel failed to provide plausible information about its final port of call, present movements and cargo. The LTTE later claimed that it had been a "merchant vessel" and criticised the navy for firing at the ship.

However, the navy will not refrain from taking similar action in future, the senior official said, emphasising that it was the navy’s legitimate task at sea.

"Our action sends out a clear message," he said. "We will do our duty."

It was the first time the navy destroyed a Tiger vessel since the signing of the cease-fire agreement. On several previous occasions, intercepted LTTE vessels had received lenient treatment because the navy did not want to be blamed for disturbing the peace process.

Navy officials now emphasise that their legitimate task at sea remains the same, irrespective of developments on land. Although a cease-fire agreement had been signed, the navy still had a duty to prevent such activities as gun-running and illegal immigration. The navy may challenge, board and inspect any ship they deem suspicious, particularly if it was not flying a flag.

"We are the navy of a legitimate government," the official asserted. "The legitimate government has the right to deploy forces for their national security. The LTTE are not a legitimate government."