At least 20 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels and a Sri Lankan Navy trooper were killed in a fierce sea battle between the rebels and the navy, defence officials said on Friday.
A battle erupted between a flotilla of LTTE sea wing boats and the Sri Lanka Navy's Dvora fast attack craft off Pulmoddai in the eastern port district of Trincomalee at around 3.00 a.m. on Friday.
The navy said they destroyed three LTTE boats while the pro-rebel TamilNet website claimed that the Tiger rebels had sunk three naval boats. Only three cadres died in the battle, the rebels claimed.
The clash was the first between the navy and the LTTE since the navy on Sep 10 said they had destroyed three big LTTE arms ships in the mid seas.
During the last fortnight the two sides have been constantly engaging in fierce battles in the northern front.
More than 5,000 people have died in the island's separatist armed conflict since the end of 2005.
Claiming discrimination at the hands of the Sinhala majority, the LTTE has been fighting the government since the mid-1980s to establish a separate homeland for the minority Tamils in the north and east.