Two sailors of the Indian Coast Guard are “missing” along with five Sri Lankan fishermen in mid-sea late on Wednesday night.
According to sources in the intelligence agencies, a patrol ship noticed Sri Lankan fishermen on seven boats fishing in the Indian waters.
Coast Guard personnel intercepted them and deployed two sailors on each of the boats before towing them towards Chennai.
After some time, the seventh boat with five fishermen and two sailors was found missing.
Intelligence agency sources said the sailors were overpowered by the fishermen.
“Based on information that the missing boat reached the Sri Lankan coast, Coast Guard officials were trying to negotiate the release of the sailors through the appropriate Sri Lankan authorities. It appears that the sailors had weapons with them,” a senior police official said.
The Coast Guard deployed its Dornier aircraft and other vessels on search operations in the last 24 hours but could not trace the missing boat named ‘Win Marine.’
Six boats in custody of Coast Guard
“The other Sri Lankan fishermen and six boats are in the custody of the Coast Guard. It appears that the fishermen who escaped are demanding the release of their colleagues. The status of the sailors is not clear. Efforts are being made at the highest level to ascertain and ensure their safety,” he added.
Sources in the Chennai Police said that Sri Lankan fishermen venturing into Indian waters, particularly along the Andhra Pradesh coastline, was a routine affair.
“A large number of Sri Lankan fishermen have been taken into custody by the Coast Guard in the recent past. We register a case under the appropriate provisions of law and remand them to judicial custody. Since January 1 this year, 386 Sri Lankan fishermen have been arrested and 73 fishing boats seized,” the official said.