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Lanka denies killing Indian fishermen

July 16, 2008 18:22 IST

Sri Lanka [Images] has refuted allegations of killing two Indian fishermen fishing at Point Calimere but said its naval patrol had fired at a suspicious boat elsewhere and it was willing to share the video evidence with Indian authorities.

"The preliminary findings in this case are that there were no Naval units operating on the Sri Lanka side of the International Maritime Boundary Line in the area off Point Calimere on July 11," the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said its attention had been drawn to reports in the Indian media saying that two fishermen from Nagapattinam on the south Indian coast were killed while fishing off Point Calimere on July 11, due to firing by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Two fishermen were killed and one injured when the Sri Lankan navy allegedly opened fire on them after they apparently strayed into the waters of the island nation.

The fishermen, hailing from Arcot Thurai in Nagapattinam District of Tamil Nadu, were fishing in the Gulf of Mannar on July 11 as the local fishermen in Colombo were on strike protesting alleged detention of about 1,000 fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy on July 2 in Palk Straits.

"When reports of this nature are received, a rigorous procedure is instituted by Naval Headquarters in Colombo, keeping with the firm resolve of the Government of Sri Lanka to deal in a humanitarian manner with fishermen apprehended in Sri Lankan waters," the statement said.

The Ministry said, however, there was an incident that night  (on July 11) "At 21.10 at a completely different location, that was near Point Pedro, when two Sri Lankan Navy craft deployed on a routine patrol detected a boat moving in a suspicious manner at high speed".

The night vision cameras of the Navy vessels further discerned the suspicious craft as having the configuration of an LTTE low profile boat, the ministry said.

"The video pictures of the suspicious boat as recorded by the cameras are available with the Sri Lanka Navy, which it is willing to share with the Indian Naval authorities, along with other relevant information. When the suspect boat failed to respond to warnings to halt, the Naval craft were constrained to open fire," the ministry said.

"It is clear that the incident took place well within Sri Lankan territorial waters and around the sensitive area of Point Pedro, from where the LTTE Sea Tiger wing has frequently engaged in terrorist activities, including attacking cargo and passenger vessels operating to and from the Jaffna peninsula," it said.

However, in view of the tragic loss of life of the two Indian fishermen, the government of Sri Lanka is continuing its inquiries into this incident, the ministry said in the statement.

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