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Monday Special
Illegal arms to Lanka: Chennai is conduit
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, December 17
The state capital of Tamil Nadu is gradually turning into a conduit for illegal arms and ammunitions because of its porous coastline near Sri Lanka.
The Ministry of Defence has ordered an inquiry after a consignment of explosives meant for the Sri Lankan Navy was seized last week.

The LTTE had long been procuring arms and ammunitions with the help of smugglers by sea from here. After the seizure of this consignment it has become clear that even the Sri Lankan security forces were procuring arms and ammunitions without the knowledge of the Central Government.

Ten days ago, the state police seized 40 boxes of explosives in Madurai district from a truck coming from Nagpur in Maharashtra and proceeding towards Tuticorin port.

The documents accompanying the consignment showed the manufacturer had a valid licence and the explosives were meant for the Sri Lankan Navy.

The police allowed the truck to proceed to Tuticorin but when pro-LTTE political parties raised a hue and cry that India was supplying arms to the Sri Lankan government to be used against Tamils, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi took up the issue with the Centre.

Other than Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee also assured him to take up the issue with the Sri Lankan government.

Like the LTTE, the Sri Lankan security forces are also in need of arms and ammunitions to combat insurgency.

Mr Karunanidhi also ordered the police to investigate if any private concern had arms deal with Sri Lanka, since he was concerned following the escalation of violence there following the breakdown of talks between the LTTE and the government.

Few days back, the police came across a truck which met with an accident in Sivaganga district, carrying 30 boxes of gelex boosters. The consignment came from Kozhikode in Kerala and was supposed to be smuggled through Rameswaram, the nearest point in India from Sri Lanka.

It also revealed that many local gangs were involved in smuggling arms and ammunitions to the LTTE through this sea route.

During the past few weeks, fishermen had found wooden boxes containing rockets which got entangled in their fishing nets. One of the wooden boxes contained a 17-kg rocket along with six packets of cartridges and propellants.

The Indian Navy seized the rockets and the propellants and sent them to the Naval Armaments Depot (NAD) in Visakhapatnam for further investigation. Last week, fishermen found two more wooden boxes which contained two rockets.

All these incidents have made the mandarins in New Delhi sit up as more than 16,000 refugees have fled the island nation this year alone and entered Tamil Nadu following attacks by Sri Lankan security forces even on civilians in Jaffna and aerial bombings.



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