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Govt. seeks to deny LTTE access to Indian waters

With the armed forces making rapid progress on the Vanni front, Sri Lanka is seeking to deny the LTTE access to Indian waters which a senior security forces official asserted would quicken the collapse of its fighting capability.

The official said effective blockades in the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Straits would be possible only if India prevented Tamil Nadu fishing fleet from poaching in Sri Lankan waters.

He said the use of the Tamil Nadu fishing fleet was two-fold. "Indian trawlers are used to smuggle in urgently needed supplies for the LTTE and also as a shield to facilitate operations across the international maritime boundary," he said.

Although the presence of Indian trawlers had restricted SLN action against the LTTE, the SLN had succeeded in intercepting several trawler loads of arms, ammunition and equipment.

The loss of eight ships carrying armaments over the past two years, action taken to alert the People’s Republic of China of the LTTE acquiring Chinese equipment and unprecedented US operations had forced the LTTE to increasingly turn towards Indian sources.

The SLN early this month deployed additional assets in the Gulf of Mannar to discourage Indian trawlers from crossing the maritime boundary. Interestingly, one of first to get caught in the cordon was an Indian who was on his way back to Tamil Nadu. Although he had carried a valid Indian passport, he hadn’t entered the country through the Bandaranaike International Airport, another official told The Sunday Island.

Army headquarters said the Task Force I and 57 Division advancing northwards on the Mannar and Vavuniya fronts would gradually deny the LTTE access to the north-western coast. Last week’s fall of Viddataltivu, once the hub of Sea Tiger operations, would force the LTTE to quit their positions along the coastal areas, a senior army official said.

The military said the combined forces would go all out to destroy Sea Tigers. On Friday, jets launched from Katunayake, bombed two large LTTE logistic boats about a kilometer north of Mullaitivu at 6.20 a.m.

Air Force headquarters said jets zeroed-in-on the boats as the LTTE was in the process of loading them. The strike came just 10 minutes after jets bombed an LTTE artillery and mortar position about two kilometers west of Mullaitivu.

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