India seizes Tamil rebel boat off southern coast

CHENNAI, India, Feb 15, 2007 (AFP) – India’s coast guard said it had foiled a major attack when it seized a boat belonging to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels packed with weapons, bomb-making chemicals and a “suicide belt.”

Officials said five men including a top Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) rebel were on the boat when it was captured late Tuesday off the south coast of India.
“We have averted a major militant operation,” coast guard Regional Commander Rajendra Singh said late Wednesday, adding that the boat contained a “huge amount” of chemicals for making bombs.

“The suicide belt could blow up a large area so our preliminary assessment is that it was meant to cause destruction at a big temple celebration or during some elections,” said Singh.

LTTE boats have in the past been captured off India’s Tamil Nadu coast carrying weapons bound for the Tigers in Sri Lanka.

But this boat was carrying “dangerous arms and ammunition” towards coast of Tamil Nadu, which has a predominantly Tamil population, he said. Two Indian fishermen were also arrested.

The rebel Tigers are battling for an independent state for minority Tamils in Sri Lanka in a civil war that has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972