MADRAS: INDIA, AUG 8, REUTER — Police arrested 160 Sri Lankan militants in south India or Monday less than a week after Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said his government was getting “a little tired” of negotiating peace with them.

The crackdown on_ the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) came after the guerrilla group responded to Gandhi’s remarks by accusing him of making “baseless and irresponsible” statements.

Police said 67 LITE members were arrested in Madras, capital of south India’s Tamil Nadu state, and 83 in nearby Madurai district.

The LITE said in a statement that some of its members had been arrested in hospital but gave no further details.

Most of the LTTE’s senior leaders are ready under virtual house arrest, the militants said.

Police said those arrested in raids in the early hours of Monday would be charged with violating immigration laws, although many have been living in exile in south India for up to five years.

Gandhi, on a visit to Tamil Nadu last week, said the Indian government was growing tired of negotiating with the most powerful group of fighting for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils.

He also accused the LITE of backing out of commitments made to Indian negotiators who have trying to persuade the repels to accept a peace accord Gandhi signed with Sri Lankan president Junius Jayewardene last year.

Since rejecting the accord, the Tigers have killed up’ to 600 of the 52,000 Indian troops sent to Sri Lanka to disarm rebel groups and enforce the terms of the accord.

In its statement, the LTTE said the arrests were an attempt by New Delhi to force the rebels to lay down their arms and accept the accord.

India has about 60 million Tamils of its own, who have strong cultural and ethnic ties to Sri Lanka’s Tamil community.

Article extracted from this publication >> August 12, 1988