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Sailors of Jordanian ship arrive in Colombo from Tamil rebel territory after 3-day ordeal

Sailors of Jordanian ship arrive in Colombo from Tamil rebel territory after 3-day ordeal

The 25 crew members of a Jordanian ship arrived in the Sri Lankan capital Monday, days after they were taken by Tamil Tiger insurgents who boarded their vessel when it drifted into rebel-controlled waters.
The crew, which included Jordanians, Egyptians and an Iraqi captain, left rebel-held territory Monday morning on board five International Committee of the Red Cross vehicles, said rebel spokesman Daya Master.
They arrived at a five-star hotel in Colombo after a 10-hour drive from the rebels' stronghold of Kilinochchi. Sri Lankan policemen cleared the hotel of journalists before the ICRC convoy arrived.
"They are here in Colombo, I can confirm that," said Mr. M.R. Hassen, a spokesman for the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Hassen said the crew members will be handed over to the shipping company Tuesday morning and plans made for their journey home.
The Jordanian ship, the Farha-3, was carrying 14,000 tons of Indian rice bound for South Africa when it drifted into rebel waters Saturday when the rebels boarded the vessel and took them to Kilinochchi.
The Sri Lankan government _ which had described as "preposterous" the rebels' claim of control over the island nation's territorial waters _ on Monday filed a complaint with a Singapore-based anti-piracy organization that accuses rebels of forcibly boarding the ship.
"The story being told to the world by the terrorists is wrong," said Sri Lankan navy spokesman Commander D.K.P. Dassanayake, dismissing the rebels' claim that they had rescued the crew after the ship suffering engine trouble.
Dassanayake said the ship was 13 kilometers (8 miles) away from the shore when it developed engine trouble. The captain dropped anchor and engineers began working on the engine when the rebels went aboard.
"We were in touch with the vessel and we were in the process of making arrangements to send a tug to tow the ship to Colombo," Dassanayake said.
He said the rebels lifted the anchor and allowed the ship to drift closer to the shore.
"The captain at no stage activated the distress alarm, but he did push the piracy alarm button," Dassanayake said.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which is fighting to create a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's 3.1 million ethnic Tamil minority, say they control waters around insurgent-held territory in the northeast, where they run their own administration.
The rebels deny the charge that they had any ill intentions. They say they had boarded the ship to inspect it after it drifted into waters the rebels say they control.


Updated : 2021-03-08 18:28 GMT+08:00