The Sri Lankan navy on Wednesday "completely foiled" an attempt by LTTE suicide boats to destroy the Galle naval base, 105 kilometre south of Colombo, government defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said.
He said that the naval base cum fishing harbour was attacked at 7.45 am by five explosive-laden LTTE suicide boats disguised as fishing vessels.
All five were destroyed by the naval personnel on duty as they had prior information about the attack, he said.
Intelligence had earlier spotted the movement of LTTE vessels disguised as fishing vessels, off Yala, northeast of Galle.
Three of the attacking boats were blown up outside the harbour and two inside. All the LTTE cadres on board were killed.
Two of the navy's Inshore Patrol Craft (IPC) and one Coastal Patrol Craft (CPC) were "slightly" damaged in the battle. One sailor was killed.
Rambukwella denied an earlier report that the Navy had lost two Israeli-made Dvora class Fast Attack Craft (FAC).
According to the pro-LTTE website Tamilnet, one sailor was killed and 21 were injured in the battle that lasted for over an hour.
The attacking party of 15 persons had come in five boats, the website said. It did not say that they were the LTTE.
Attack meant to trigger anti-Tamil riots
Government spokesman Rambukwella said that the LTTE's plan was to trigger anti-Tamil riots in South Sri Lanka as in 1983 and derive propaganda advantage ahead of the October 28 talks.
"The earlier attack on a naval convoy at Habarana in the North Central part of the country was also meant to trigger an anti-Tamil backlash in southern Sri Lanka."
"We are glad that the people in the South did not fall into the trap laid by the LTTE," the spokesman said.
This is the first time the LTTE has attacked Galle, a Sinhala-dominated area in Sri Lanka's southern extremity.
The Galle-Matara area is a major recruiting ground for the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and is also the political base of the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the hawkish Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).
Galle-Matara is a hotbed of Sinhala nationalist politics.
The naval spokesman, Commodore DKP Dassanayake said that in the suicide attack on a naval convoy at Habarana, 98 navy men were killed and 93 injured.
Japanese envoy told Govt would retaliate
Rambukwella said that the government would go for the talks in Geneva on October 28 and 29 in spite of the recent violent incidents.
"They are talks, not peace talks," he quipped.
"The idea is not to console or sympathise with the LTTE, but to solve the basic problems of the Tamil people, whose children are denied education by the LTTE. The fascist and barbaric terrorist Prabhakaran has driven a whole generation of Tamils to the stone age," Rambukwella said.
"The government delegation would raise basic political issues and not limit the talks to the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA)," he stressed.
Plain speaking to Japanese envoy
The spokesman said that Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi had had cordial talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, but the president made it clear to him that while his government would talk to the LTTE, it reserved the right to retaliate appropriately if the LTTE indulged in violence.