Sri Lanka steps up search for navy boat with 6 aboard

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan authorities have stepped up a search for a navy boat that went missing a month ago along with six sailors while patrolling in the Indian Ocean off the island nation, a navy spokesman said on Saturday.

Navy spokesman Capt. Indika de Silva said the sailors ventured out from Sri Lanka’s southern coast on Sept. 16 on a regular patrol and a day later, the navy had lost communication with the boat.

He said that since then, the navy had deployed vessels to find the boat and the search operation intensified with the deployment of air force aircraft.

Silva said they suspect the boat might have developed an engine trouble and drifted to the open sea after getting caught in a heavy current.

“So far, we have not been able to find the boat or the sailors,” said Silva.

Sri Lanka’s navy conducts regular patrols to crack down on smuggling. In recent months, the navy has successfully carried out several missions targeting narcotic and human traffickers. Dozens of people have been arrested while trying to illegally migrate mostly to Australia along with traffickers carrying large quantities of narcotics.

In May and April, the navy seized more than 1,000 kilograms (2,204 pounds) of heroine that was being smuggled in vessels.

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