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Sri Lanka navy seizes British Tamil aid ship on ‘mercy mission’

[Telegraph, Friday, 5 June 2009 16:15 No Comment]

The Sri Lankan navy seized a ship carrying medical and food aid donated by British Tamils on Thursday, claiming the vessel was carrying military equipment to support the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

The Syrian-registered ship, the Captain Ali, set sail from Ipswich on April 20, carrying nearly 900 tons of food, medicine and other aid donated by British Tamils, according to Mercy Mission to Vanni, the group that sent the supplies.

However, the Sri Lankan navy said the ship had set sail "under the pretext of a mercy mission" and seized it 150 nautical miles off the coastline before escorting it to Colombo. Among the 13 crew members and two passengers detained in Colombo for questioning was Uthayanan Thavarajasingam, a 51-year-old British charity worker.

"This is a purely humanitarian mission and the longer the aid is delayed, the more people are suffering in the camps," said Arjunan Ethirveerasingam a spokesman for Mercy Mission. "All we want is to distribute the aid."

But a Sri Lankan military spokesman said: "The ship has arrived here under the pretext of a mercy mission. We had no details of the ship or cargo apart from that it (the cargo) was loaded by LTTE supporters in the UK."

Mercy Mission collected aid in March to support 250,000 refugees displaced by the bloody conflict. However, the Sri Lankan government defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May and is now clamping down on anyone with suspected links to the rebels.

On Thursday, a group of doctors working in rebel areas during the war were charged with collaborating with the Tigers for giving information to journalists who were banned from the zones.

It is not known whether Damilvany Gnanakumar, the Briton who was working in Tamil hospitals and has been held in an internment camp since mid May, will also face charges.

 

Sri Lanka navy seizes British Tamil aid ship on ‘mercy mission’ – Telegraph

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