The Sri Lankan Security Forces (SF) and the LTTE fought an artillery duel over the Trincomalee naval base in Eastern Sri Lanka on Tuesday, as Sweden quit the Nordic truce monitoring team complaining of non-cooperation from the LTTE.
A Sri Lankan troop ship with 854 unarmed men on board, miraculously escaped with no loss of life, when the LTTE shelled the Trincomalee naval harbour from Sampur, across the Koddiyar Bay.
Naval batteries located in the harbour returned the fire. And army troops in the Plantain Point Naval camp and the Monkey Bridge Army camp fired artillery shells towards Muttur East, which is an LTTE-controlled area.
The LTTE began shelling at 2.25 pm, when the troop ship coming from the Northern sector, was just outside the harbour.
The artillery duel that this triggered, was on till late evening.
The LTTE said that 14 naval personnel, including five in the Naval Academy, were killed, and a Dvora Fast Attack craft with eight on board was sunk.
But the Naval spokesman, Com.Dassanayake, denied the loss of the Dvora and said that the LTTE lost three of its boats.
He further said that all the naval ships in the harbour were safe.
"Disembarkation from the troop ship was carried out without any loss," he said.
"This is the second time that the LTTE has threatened an unarmed troop ship," he pointed out.
An unarmed troop ship carrying 710 men going on leave, and with Nordic truce monitors on board, was threatened at Point Pedro in the Jaffna peninsula on May 11.
Supplementing the army and navy bombardment, the Sri Lankan Air Force took on specific LTTE targets in the Sampur area.
Kfir jet fighters took on targets in the Verugal area, further south, not far from the Mavil Aaru dam, which saw very fierce ground fighting on Monday, the Air Force spokesman, Gr Capt Ajantha Silva said.
19 men killed in landmine blast
Fifteen Sri Lankan soldiers and four civilians were killed when the bus in which they were traveling was blown up by a claymore mine in Serunuwara, in Trincomalee district at 10.30 pm on Monday.
In Mavil Aaru, Sri Lankan troops could not proceed beyond 500 metres from their forward camps on Monday, informed sources in Trincomalee said.
There was no ground action on Tuesday but the Air force bombed the Verugal river area, north east of Mavil Aaryu dam.
Sweden quits truce panel
Meanwhile, the Swedish Foreign Ministry announced that Swedish personnel in the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) would be withdrawing from the mission.
Sweden thus follows Denmark and Finland, which quit the mission saying that they could not continue as the LTTE had said that it did not want to cooperate with monitors from the European Union (EU) countries because the EU had banned it.
The LTTE had said that all monitors from the EU countries must quit by September 1.
The current head of the SLMM is a Swede, Maj Gen Ulf Henricsson.