The LTTE blasted an Indian tug deployed south of Point Calimere in June last year, well informed sources said. The ill-fated vessel is believed to have been deployed alongside a dredger assigned for controversial Sethusamudram project. The LTTE had used a limpet mine, believed to be about 40 kgs in weight to blast the tug.
The Sunday Island came across information regarding the hitherto unreported attack Friday in the backdrop of Indian claims that 15 LTTE boats on suicide missions are operating in the waters between India and Sri Lanka, an assertion rejected by Sri Lanka.
The Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project envisages linking the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka by creating a shipping canal through the shallow sea called Setu Samudram, and through the island chain of Rama`s Bridge. This would provide a continuous navigable sea route around the Indian Peninsula. The project involves digging a 44.9 nautical mile (83 km) long deepwater channel linking the shallow water of the Palk Strait with the Gulf of Mannar.
Well informed sources said that the LTTE blasted the tug less than a week before a squad of LTTE frogmen made an abortive bid to raid the Colombo harbour. The limpet mine used against the Indian tug is believed to be of the same type the LTTE planned to use against SLN or merchant vessels during the raid which went awry due to rough seas.
Immediately after the blast had hit the tug, the dredger had come alongside the stricken vessel to rescue its crew. The sources said that the unprecedented attack believed to have been carried out on the behest of an interested party was aimed at delaying the Sethu project by impeding the process of dredging.
The sources claimed that the Indian government was aware of the developing scenario. Referring to a recent editorial in The Hindu, the sources said that the LTTE was capitalising on the political situation in Tamil Nadu to its advantage. Pointing out the danger in allowing the LTTE to set up base in Tamil Nadu, The Hindu recently said, `?a deeply worrying mix of political collusion, official complacency, mercenary considerations and corruption has enabled the LTTE to exploit Tamil Nadu both as a source of supply and a base of operations.`
The sources said that last year`s attack on the tug took place about 20 nautical miles away from the location the Indian Coast Guard seized an LTTE vessel on February 13 this year.
The mystery over India`s decision to blow up the vessel seized 27 nautical miles South West of Point Calimere has taken a new turn with the online edition of India`s national newspaper The Hindu claiming that the explosives-laden boat was on a suicide mission and the suspected target was Kankesanthurai port in the Jaffna peninsula.`
The Indian Coast Guard seized the boat along with five crew members-three Sri Lankans and two Indians aboard. The Hindu, quoted `well informed` sources as saying that the suspects, included a Black Tiger operative and a Sea Tiger operative.
Sri Lankan sources said that India initially acknowledged that the vessel was on its way to Tamil Nadu and that a suicide belt recovered from the craft was to be used to attack a major Temple festival. Coast Guard Regional Commander Rajendra Singh publicly declared that the Coast Guard succeeded in thwarting a terrorist attack on a big temple celebration. But subsequently the Indian officialdom changed its position and in a bid to cover-up claimed that 15 LTTE boats on suicide missions are operating in the waters between India and Sri Lanka.