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Violence marks Rajapaksa's birthday

india Updated: Nov 18, 2006 16:54 IST
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Serious incidents of violence and military clashes took place in north Sri Lanka on Saturday, as Mahinda Rajapaksa turned 61 and ended his first but turbulent year in office as the President of Sri Lanka.

There was a major sea battle off the northwestern coast of Mannar, in regard to which the Sri Lankan Navy and the LTTE made conflicting claims.

Naval spokesman Com DKP Dassanayake said that three LTTE boats had come from the Indian side of the maritime boundary and were seen heading towards Viduthaltivu, an LTTE-controlled area north of Talaimannar.

A fight ensued and an LTTE boat was sunk when the Sri Lankan Navy's Inshore Petrol Craft (IPC) challenged them.

Soon, the LTTE received seven boats as reinforcements from Viduthaltivu. But these too were challenged by the navy and air force and some reinforcements sent by the Northern Naval Command in Jaffna.

The ship-based and shore-based guns of the navy and the air force destroyed three LTTE vessels and incapacitated one more. The remaining six fled to Viduthaltivu.

The navy lost one sailor, Com Dassanayake said.

The LTTE, however, had a different story to tell. Two IPCs of the navy were sunk and a third IPC was damaged in the two-hour battle, it said.

According to the pro-LTTE website Tamilnet, about 10 Sri Lankan naval personnel were killed in the fighting while three LTTE cadres were wounded.

LTTE's military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan said that the Lankan Navy had intruded into "Tamil Eelam's territorial waters" off Viduthalthivu, north of Talaimannar, at about 6.50 am and was met with fierce resistance by the "Guard Unit" of the Sea Tigers, the LTTE's naval arm.

MI-24 choppers and MIG and Kfir bombers of the air force took part in the two-hour battle.

According to Ilanthirayan, the intruding Sri Lankan Naval vessels were beaten back to the Talaimannar naval base.

The battle resulted in people fleeing from Talaimannar.

Further east in Vavuniya district, the LTTE killed three soldiers by setting off a claymore mine targeting a Sri Lankan Army vehicle, the government said.

Over 15 civilians, including students of the Agriculture School, were injured in the blast which took place at Thandikulam between Vavuniya town and the Omanthai checkpoint on the A9 highway.

Govt sends food to starving Vaharai

Following the adverse international publicity which the terrible humanitarian situation in Vaharai in east Sri Lanka had secured in recent weeks, the Sri Lankan government on Saturday sent food-laden lorries to the affected people.

The convoy included two ambulances.

But by opening fire, the LTTE did not allow the convoy to proceed beyond Chengaladi, a government website said.

The military said that food could not be sent earlier because the LTTE was firing mortars and artillery on the A15 highway from the coastal side.

The LTTE, however, has been alleging that the government had closed the A15 wilfully, and was preventing aid from reaching the Vaharai area, which is hosting thousands of Tamil refugees from Mutur, Sampur and other areas in battle-scarred Trincomalee district.

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