Piracy Charge

COLOMBO, Dec 26 (AFP) – The crew of a Jordanian cargo ship accused Tamil Tiger rebels Tuesday of piracy, saying the guerrillas had attacked their vessel after it developed engine trouble near a militant-held area. The rebels — in six boats — surrounded the Farah III and fired into the air as they boarded the vessel on December 23, Captain R. Abdullah said.

“This was an armed attack. This is piracy,” Abdullah told a news conference here.

After boarding the ship, the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) tried to blow up the cable anchoring the Farah III but failed, he said.

Six guerrillas then ordered the 25-member crew off the ship into rebel boats and removed all communications equipment, charts and radar equipment from the Jordanian vessel, he said.

The crew of 13 Jordanians and 11 Egyptians, skippered by Abdullah, an Iraqi national, arrived here late Monday.

They said the rebels had held them after forcing them off their ship.

Abdullah denied rebel claims that the Tigers had rescued the crew and had tried to help them to repair their engines.

“They did not try to help,” Abdullah said, adding the gunmen had fired four times into the air in a bid to scare his crew.