Sri Lanka turns away ship carrying aid for displaced Tamils

June 8th, 2009 - 11:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, June 8 (DPA) Sri Lanka’s navy Monday turned away a vessel carrying relief aid for displaced Tamils after detaining the vessel and questioning its crew for three days.
The Captain Ali, a Syrian-registered ship, was seized Thursday off the western coast of Sri Lanka and its crew members were questioned in detail as the navy carried out a full search of the vessel, officials said.

Sri Lankan authorities said the ship had forced its way into Sri Lankan territorial waters. In a statement released on a government website, the defence ministry said the ship was “carrying supplies” for the now defeated Tamil rebels.

However, only relief items including food and medicine was found on the ship, which travelled from Britain via France to Sri Lanka.

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said earlier the ship would be released if are no harmful items were found.

He said that the ship had not obtained permission to visit the country from the relevant government authorities.

The ship was on course for the northeastern coast of Sri Lanka, were thousands of civilians had been trapped in the fighting between government troops and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), until the government declared victory in the country’s 25-year civil war May 18.

The military recaptured all rebel-held areas and said it killed the entire leadership of the LTTE. Thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed in the last days of the war.

While no action will be taken against the 15-member strong crew, which includes on Icelandic national, a local agent of the ship was detained for questioning.

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