TAMIL NADU

Smuggling of explosives to Sri Lanka still on

RAMANATHAPURAM, OCT. 11. Sunday's seizure of a huge volume of explosives along with an ``Indian boat'' near Jaffna indicates that smugglers in Tamil Nadu are active. Following the seizure Coast Guard, the Navy, the Coastal Security and the police have intensified patrolling along the coastal areas from Rameswaram to Nagappattinam.

The Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Alexander Mohan, told The Hindu that vehicle checks were intensified in the Ramanathapuram range. All police stations along the coastal areas and checkposts were alerted.

Sources said that a network of Sri Lankan refugees, fishermen, dealers in explosives in coastal districts and agents, who transport Sri Lankan refugees illegally to the Island nation, had been in operation for the ``past few months.''

The network spreads across Rameswaram, Thondi, Thirupalakudi, Devipattinam in Ramanathapuram district to Jagathapattinam, Pudukottai, Adhirampattinam, Nagapattinam and even in some parts of the Cauvery delta districts.

The modus operandi

The agents take orders from their Sri Lankan counterparts on the volume of explosives to be delivered, place and mode of delivery. They purchase gelatin sticks, detonators and other explosive materials from `selected' agents in Madurai, Pudukottai and Tiruchi districts.

Generally the agents avoid bulk buying to avoid raising any suspicion: they buy a maximum of 10 gelatin sticks and 10 detonators under the pretext of deepening wells or for other permitted purposes, the sources said.

The huge profit margin lures dealers to liberally sell explosives to regular buyers. Once they accumulate the needed materials, they smuggle the explosives in fibreglass boats fixed with high-speed engines, which can reach the island in about 45 minutes. Sometimes, the agents carry the banned items when they ferry the refugees from here. ``Many refugees are aware that dangerous materials are carried with them in the boats. But they do not have a choice. Most of them keep quiet because of the low fare,'' a source said.

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