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Sri Lanka arrests over 100 Indian fishermen

[AFP, Wednesday, 16 February 2011 19:58 No Comment]

Sri Lanka arrested 112 Indian fishermen accused of poaching off the island’s north, officials said Wednesday, stoking tensions between the two countries over the narrow strip of sea dividing them.

Local fishermen seized the Indians on Tuesday and handed them over to the local police, the force’s spokesman Prishantha Jayakody said.

"There is a total of 112 Indian fishermen in police custody," Jayakody said

A magistrate in the northern peninsula of Jaffna ordered the men should be held in judicial custody until the end of the month pending police investigations, a court official said by telephone.

The mass arrest came as tension rose along the murky waters of the Palk Strait separating the South Asian neighbours, with the killing last month of two Indian fishermen.

Indian authorities accused Sri Lanka’s navy of gunning down the Indians while Colombo flatly denied its navy fired at the intruding fishermen.

Last month, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao visited Colombo to discuss attacks against Indian fishermen along the Palk Strait and the two sides agreed to revive a "joint working group" to address the issues of fishermen.

Sri Lankan fishermen were barred from operating along the Palk Strait for decades when troops battled Tamil Tiger rebels, but after the ethnic war ended in May 2009 with the crushing of the guerrillas, fishing has been allowed.

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