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28 February 2024

16 Indian fishermen arrested as tensions rise


Sri Lanka's navy said on Sunday it had detained 16 Indian fishermen on a charge of poaching, as tensions rose between India's southern state of Tamil Nadu and the Colombo government.

The fishermen in three trawlers were arrested Saturday night inside Sri Lankan waters off the west coast and handed over to local police for further investigation, a navy spokesman said.

"We had information that they were poaching in that area in the past three days and we sent additional patrol craft to arrest them," spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya told AFP.

He said another 37 Indians had been arrested in December off the island's east coast.

The latest arrests came amid rising tensions between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, whose minority Tamils have close cultural and religious ties with Tamils in India.

Tamil Nadu last week asked Sri Lankan Catholic pilgrims to return home as local residents turned hostile towards them. Several other groups of pilgrims had been stoned and forced to leave recently.

Tamil Nadu politicians have also criticised Sri Lanka's Sinhalese-dominated government for its treatment of ethnic Tamils.

Sri Lankan fishermen were barred from operating along the Palk Strait, the narrow strip separating the two countries, for decades during which their country's troops battled Tamil Tiger rebels.

They have been allowed to return to the strait since the island's ethnic war ended in May 2009 with the crushing of Tamil Tiger guerrillas, who were once given safe haven in Tamil Nadu.