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Aid boat funded by Tiger supporters seized


Latest update : 2009-06-04

Sri Lanka's navy said on Thursday it had intercepted a freighter filled with aid, funded by Tamil Tiger sympathisers bound for formerly rebel-held areas. The boat reached Sri Lankan waters three weeks after the rebels lost a decades-old war.

AFP -  Sri Lanka's navy Thursday seized a foreign-owned ship loaded with medical, food and other supplies, saying the vessel was carrying provisions for the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

The defence ministry in a statement said the Syrian-registered ship Captain Ali was seized off the island's western coast and was being escorted to the port of Colombo with a total of 15 people onboard.

It said the ship had set sail "under the pretext of a mercy mission" carrying essential logistical materials for the Tamil Tigers before they were defeated late last month.

"We have seized the vessel and we are bringing it ashore now," Captain D.K. Dassanayake said, adding the crew offered no resistance when the navy boarded the vessel 140 kilometres (87 miles) west of Sri Lanka.

"We have been tracking this ship for some time and seized it today as it got closer to our shores," Dassanayake said. "We are bringing the ship to a port together with its crew."

The ship was carrying hundreds of tonnes of food, medicine and other provisions.

The organisers of the mission, Mercy Mission to Wani, said on their website that the goods were meant for Tamil civilians caught up in the decades-long conflict.

The Wani region had formed part of the Tigers' virtual mini-state in the island's northeast before the end of the conflict.

The supplies were loaded onto a ship in the English port of Ipswich in April -- just weeks before the government declared victory in the ethnic conflict, a navy spokesman said.

According to the group's website, the materials were then ferried from England to the French port of Fos-sur-Mer, 50 kilometres (30 miles) northwest of Marseille.

From there they were loaded on to the Captain Ali on May 7, which then departed for Sri Lanka.

The mission was organised at a time when Tamil Tiger rebels were cornered in the island's northeast, using tens of thousands of civilians as cover.

Government troops announced they had crushed the Tigers after killing the rebel leadership on May 18.

Nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians crossed over to government-held areas during the final stages of fighting.

Mercy Mission's website said an Icelandic national, Kristjan Guomundsson, who had served as one of the monitors of a truce between Tamil Tigers and troops between February 2002 and January 2008 was also aboard the Captain Ali.

The cargo was donated by Tamils living abroad, according to the website.

Date created : 2009-06-04