A chance detection of a boat trying to move through an SLN cordon now in place in the Gulf of Mannar has revealed the presence of some Indians in the LTTE-held area in the Vanni.
An Indian holding passport (ETN/059/001/355/2001) was among seven persons attempting to cross the Indo-Lanka maritime boundary on Wednesday. Selvam Sudesh Kanan has claimed that he along with three other Indians arrived in the LTTE held area in the Vanni on January 10, 2003.
His boat would most probably have escaped if a special naval cordon had not been in place to discourage the Tamil Nadu fishing fleet from poaching in Sri Lankan waters. The SLN has placed the cordon following the detention of nearly 290 Indian trawlers poaching in Sri Lankan waters on July 2, which triggered protests in the Tamil Nadu.
After initial questioning in Mannar, the SLN had moved the Indian overland to Colombo to be handed over to the Indian High Commission.
Although the government has accepted Selvam s claim that they were detained by the LTTE used as forced labour, the mystery surrounds the failure on the part of their families to raise the issue with the Sri Lankan mission in Chennai. The Tamil Nadu media, the Indian High Commission or the Norwegian-led truce monitoring mission deployed in the Northern and Eastern Province had not raised the issue, the sources said.
Sources pointed out that although Selvam had a valid Indian passport, he hadn t entered Sri Lanka through the Bandaranaike International airport. `The bottom line is that he had entered the Vanni mainland clandestinely,` an official said.
He asserted Selvam s explanation could be a blatant lie. The possibility of the Indian being with the LTTE for some other reason couldn t be ruled, he said. The fall of Vidattaltivu to Task Force I against the backdrop of rapid deterioration of LTTE firepower on the region west of the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road would have prompted the Indian to leave, the sources said.
The Navy on Thursday handed over the suspect to the Indian High Commission.
With the army making rapid progress on the Mannar and Vavuniya fronts, the LTTE would face tremendous difficulties in maintaining sea line of communications with Tamil Nadu through the Gulf of Mannar, the military said.
After losing Vidattaltivu, the LTTE has relocated its units in and around Illuppaikkadavai, Mundampiddi and Vellankulam to resist the army advance on the Mannar-Pooneryn A 32 road, the sources said. There could be approximately 600 cadres operating in these villages, the sources said, asserting the LTTE would attempt to make a stand on the Mallavi-Tunukkai road stretch on the Vellankilam (on the north-western coast)-Mankulam (key junction on the A9 road).
The boat intercepted by the SLN as it attempted to reach the Indian waters is believed to have left Mundampiddi.
Thursday afternoon, Mi-24 helicopter gunships attacked an LTTE gathering point 11 kilometres north-east of Illuppaikkadavai.