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Passenger ship escapes Lanka battle

A ship carrying 308 civilians escapes after getting embroiled in a Navy-Tiger clash, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2006 23:28 IST

A passenger ship with 308 civilians on board got caught in an intense battle between the Sri Lankan Navy and the LTTE’s Sea Tigers off the Point Pedro coast in North Sri Lanka on Thursday. But the ship and the passengers came out unscathed.
 
The Sri Lankan Navy, based in nearby Kankesanthurai, beat back the attacking 26-vessel “Sea Tiger” flotilla, destroying 22 of the boats, the Sri Lankan government’s National Security website said.
 
The ship was coming from Trincomalee and was to berth at Kankesanthurai. 
 
The battle began at 5.30 pm.
 
MI-24s and Kfir jet fighter-bombers of the Air Force helped the Navy’s gunboats to chase away the LTTE’s boats , some of which were on a suicide mission.
 
The Navy lost one gunboat and another was damaged.
 
According to the pro-LTTE Tamilnet website, one Dvora gunboat of the Sri Lankan Navy was sunk off Point Pedro at 5.30 pm and another was damaged off Valvettithurai at 6 pm.
 
The LTTE’s Sea Tiger craft, which mounted the attack, had chased the Sri Lankan naval flotilla into the Kankesanthurai harbour, the site said.
 
The website quoted the LTTE’s military spokesman Rasaiah Ilanthirayan alias Marshal as saying that the attack on Point Pedro and Valvettithurai followed the Sri Lankan Navy’s intrusion into the “territorial waters of the LTTE” off  Nagarkovil on the Vadamarachchi coast.
 
Following the clash off Nagarkovil, 18 Sri Lankan navy men went missing, he said.
 
Sri Lankan Air Force’s Kfir supersonic jets tried to chase the Sea Tiger boats away. One LTTE boat was damaged, the site said.
 
Plan to bring food to Jaffna from India hit
 
Thursday’s incident off the Northern coast may result in the indefinite postponement of the Sri Lankan government’s plan to bring 6,800 tonnes of food stuff from India by sea to alleviate the suffering of the six lakh Tamils of Jaffna who are on the verge of starvation.  
 
Kankesanthurai and Point Pedro are the harbours where the Indian food consignments will have been off loaded.
 
Troubled peace broker
 
Norwegian peace broker, Erik Solheim, said in a statement from Oslo on Wednesday, that he was “very troubled” by the Sri Lankan government’s “onslaught” on the refugee camp in Vaharai in Eastern Sri Lanka.
 
He said that he was “extremely disappointed” that the two parties were not honouring the commitment they had made in Geneva a week and a half ago that they would not resort to any military operations.
 
On the shelling of the Pooneryn jetty when the Scandinavian truce monitor Lars Solvberg was there on wednesday, Solheim said: “ It is very worrying that the civilian Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, headed by Lars Solvberg came close to being hit by grenades fired by the Sri Lankan army near Pooneryn, in northern Sri Lanka.”
 
“We have asked the Sri Lankan government for an immediate explanation,” he said.