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08 February 1998

Eelam Army chief held for Chennai blast

EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE  
CHENNAI, February 6: Tamil Eelam Army (TEA) chief Kathiresan alias Maheeswaran has been arrested by the Crime Branch CID police on Friday in connection with the bomb blast at Meenambakkam International Airport in 1984, in which 33 persons were killed and 27 others were injured.

The accused were found moving in Pazhavanthangal railway station with a loaded 9 mm pistol without any licence. A police team led by Superintendents of Police - Thukkaiyandi and Maghudapathy, and DSPs - Chinrayaperumal and Shoukat Ali and Inspector Raj Kumar - nabbed the accused.

While 11 persons were named as accused in the case, five were convicted, and two turned approver. The remaining four, including Kathiresan had been absconding. With the arrest of Kathiresan, police are now looking for three others.

TEA was formed in 1983 with the intention of securing a Tamil Eelam and had about 1,300 volunteers. After a brief period of intense struggle, Kathiresan and about 130 others had escaped to Tamil Nadu vowing to continue theirstruggle. The Meenambakkam blast, their first case of subversion, however had occurred by accident.

The bombs were placed in a plane bound for Lanka aiming a blast at Lanka airport by the accused Kathiresan. The timer was set at around 11 PM when the Air Lanka flight UL-122 was scheduled to reach Colombo airport. The aircraft was to leave Chennai airport at 8.10 PM on the fateful day.

Again, their intention was to explode the bomb after the luggage were removed from the plane and dispatched to the cargo complex. The intensity of the blast would have destroyed at least six planes in the airport, police said.

The main accused, Kathiresan purchased the ticket for the Air Lanka flight but did not travel in the flight. He had, with the assistance of a Sri Lankan, Thambiraja, Saravana Bhavan (a film actor and flying club member), Chandra Kumar (a constable at the Airport Security), Loganathan (an unauthorised porter at Meenambakkam airport) and Vijayakumar (Air Lanka office peon at Meenambakkam) tried totransmit the luggage through the conveyor for clearance by the Customs. The luggage instead of getting into the cargo for Air Lanka flight, had by mistake reached the luggage for a flight to London.

But the Customs authorities detained the luggage as the passenger did not turn up for identification.

The Air Lanka flight took off from the Meenambakkam airport around 8.15 PM As the plan did not succeed, the accused who were watching the whole incident from within the airport, went to Guindy and made repeated calls warning the airport authorities about the bombs in the luggage.

Though the police tried to retrieve the luggage, a customs inspector had objected to handing over the baggage as he mistook it to be containing gold biscuits. Two calls were made by the TEA volunteers that the luggage contained explosives which would explode around 11 PM.

It was only when the third call was made, did the customs inspector concede to hand over the suitcase. But by then it was too late. The blast occurred around10.50 PM killing over 27 transit passengers bound for Sri Lanka and six airport security officials.

Crime Branch CID police arrested 10 persons in the case while a Sri Lanka national Sree was absconding. But three accused- Kathiresan, Vigneswara Raja and Thambiraja jumped bail. The District Sessions Judge, Chengalpattu, convicted five accused - Saravana Bhavan, Loganathan, Vijay Kumar, Balasubramaniam and Chandra Kumar - were convicted and sentenced for life.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.



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