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Navy brings in captured LTTE vessel involved in bid to evacuate Prabhakaran

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Close on the heels of a simmering political debate over LTTE assets seized by the Sri Lankan government over the past several months, the Navy yesterday brought an enemy vessel captured in an operation overseas to the Colombo harbour. The operation could not have come at a better time for President Mahinda Rajapaksa facing former Army Chief General (Retd) Sarath Foneka at the forthcoming presidential election.

A six-man crew comprising four officers and two men had taken control of the 90-metre vessel about three weeks ago following an investigation involving foreign intelligence services. After flying to an Asian country separately, they had infiltrated the ship before taking control of the vessel in unprecedented operation details of which cannot be disclosed at the moment. The captured vessel is believed to be the largest operated by the group.

Interrogation of Kumaran Padmanathan aka ‘KP’, widely believed to be the chief arms procuring agent for the LTTE, captured by Sri Lankan intelligence services several months ago, is believed to have revealed the whereabouts of the ship.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake recently assured Parliament that the government would keep the Opposition informed of the progress of their investigations. This assurance was given following criticism that the government was engaged in a clandestine deal with ‘KP’ to take over LTTE assets.

Speaking to the media as the ship ‘Princess Chrisanta’ aka ‘Feng Shun 7’ entered the harbour in the afternoon, a jubilant Navy Chief Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe said that this was a proud moment for the people of Sri Lanka. He said that this would give a tremendous boost to the country.

He asserted that this vessel could have been involved in a last ditch attempt to evacuate LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran before the army had trapped him on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. "We believe a light helicopter launched from this vessel could have made an attempt to rescue him," he told the media onboard the vessel. He said that a naval cordon off the last battleground thwarted LTTE attempts to evacuate the leadership. "We did a tremendous job during the last stages of the war," he said adding that the captured vessel was similar to the vessels hunted down by the Navy on the high seas.

Although conventional fighting on the ground had come to an end, the Navy would relentlessly pursued the LTTE to thwart any attempt on their part to engage in hostile activity, he said. The Navy Chief said that the seizure of LTTE assets, including ships would not have been a reality without the courageous leadership given by incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the pivotal role played by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

He said that Sri Lanka had received the support of the international community to eradicate whatever remained of the LTTE due to the recognition won by the government. He emphasised that the international community appreciated Sri Lanka’s victory over terrorism and would support its efforts against the LTTE.

A smiling Navy Chief said that positive results could not be expected overnight as operations would take time. He appreciated the officers and men who had been involved in the operation, including Captain D. K. P. Dassanayake.

Navy spokesman Captain Athula Senarath yesterday told The Island that this was one of the most successful operations carried out by Sri Lankan forces in the post-LTTE period. The Navy was proud of this achievement, he said adding that they would maximise the latest success against the enemy in the months to come.

~ Island.lk ~ by Shamindra Ferdinando

 

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